Oregon became the first state in the U.S. to decriminalize drugs like methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin this past election through Measure 110. Under the measure, people who possess larger quantities of illicit drugs could still face misdemeanor charges, and felony charges would apply to people who are alleged to possess enough drugs to sell, but the measure reduces the penalties for the possession of larger amounts of drugs. People arrested with small amounts of hard drugs can also avoid going to trial and possible jail time by paying a $100 fine and attending an addiction recovery program. The treatment centers will be funded by revenues from legalized marijuana, which was approved in Oregon several years ago.
Measure 110 is helping to give drug users a chance to get treatment instead of being incarcerated. It is the latest example of the state’s citizen initiative process being used by national advocates of drug legalization to advance their policy goals. “Oregonians understand that we should be treating drug use as a health issue,” said Kassandra Frederique, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “It’s a huge sledgehammer to the cornerstone of the war on drugs.”
[Related: Oregon’s Decriminalization Vote Might Be Biggest Step Yet to Ending War on Drugs]
Countries that have decriminalized drug possession include Uruguay, Portugal, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic. The decriminalization provisions of Measure 110 take effect in Oregon on Feb. 1, 2021.