Oregon has become the first US state to decriminalise possession of hard drugs as voters passed their votes on Tuesday, in a nationwide bid to relax drug laws. The new measures saw a 59% approval from public votes while voters in Arizona, New Jersey, Montana and South Dakota passed their ballots to legalise the use of marijuana.
In place of having to go through trial proceedings and facing jail time, the new measures will now require people caught with small amounts of drugs for personal use to merely pay a fine of $100 (£77) and undergo a health check at an addiction recovery facility. The recovery centres will be financed partly by savings from state prisons, as well as the millions of dollars of tax revenue from Oregon's legalised, regulated marijuana industry.
According to the BBC , the new drug law under Measure 110 covers drugs such as cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and oxycodone. Hallucinogens such as LSD and psilocybin - contained in magic mushrooms - are also among the drugs to be decriminalised.
Kassandra Frederique, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance said:
"Today's victory is a landmark declaration that the time has come to stop criminalising people for drug use. Measure 110 is arguably the biggest blow to the war on drugs to date."
In 1973, Oregon became the first state to decriminalise marijuana possession. Once again, the state has become a pioneer in applying the same laws with hard drugs. The new drug law takes effect in 30 days. However, punishment changes will only take effect on February 1, 2021. At the same time, addiction recovery facilities will be made available by Oct. 1, 2021.
Although the concept may seem radical, supporters of the law said making criminals out of drug users does not help them at all as criminal records only make it difficult for them to find housing and jobs. The law also aims to work on reducing racial and ethnic disparities with convictions and arrests.
While advocates have argued that the current legislation has overcrowded prisons with non-violent offenders, those opposed to the new law say that it is unclear how juvenile offenders will be penalised and whether their parents would be notified of their violations.
The initiative for Measure 110 is highly supported by the Oregon Nurses' Association, the Oregon chapter of the American College of Physicians, and the Oregon Academy of Family Physicians.