Oregon became the first U.S. state to decriminalize possession of all illegal drugs after voters passed a ballot initiative in Tuesday’s election.
With the passage of Measure 110, Oregonians can no longer be criminally charged for possessing small amounts of illegal drugs, including heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine. The punishment for these felony and misdemeanor drug possession offenses will now be a simple $100 fine. The initiative also redirects some taxes raised through sales of legal marijuana to finance a new voluntary treatment system for drug users.
This marks the nation’s most significant development toward ending the 50-year war on drugs launched by President Richard Nixon. That catastrophic policy, disproportionately waged against Black, Latino and economically disadvantaged communities, swept generations of young men into a revolving-door criminal justice system punishing them for illegal drug possession or sales while drug usage rates held steady and overdose deaths skyrocketed.
Oregon’s initiative had broad support from groups like the NAACP Portland, local Black Lives Matter chapters, physicians groups and AFSCME, the government workers union whose membership includes corrections officers. It attracted no organized opposition.
Drug Policy Action, a national drug reform group, led the campaign