Oregon voters decriminalize all drugs, as drug policy reforms win everywhere
Led by voters in Oregon, Americans from coast to coast voted by decisive margins to take steps to end the war against drugs. We’re moving closer to making this a country where people are no longer punished for what they put into their bodies.
Oregon voters approved two historic ballot measures. One will decriminalize the possession of all drugs, from marijuana and ecstasy to LSD and heroin — a model pioneered, mostly with good results, in Portugal, which treats drug addiction as a disease, not a crime.
Oregonians also approved a measure that will allow the medical use of psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms. This creates an opportunity to show that psychedelic drugs can help treat mental disorders.
Meantime, New Jersey voted by a two-to-one margin to legalize marijuana, which will bring pressure on neighboring New York to do the same. So did Arizona and Montana, albeit by smaller margins, early returns showed. Mississippi — yes, Mississippi — legalized medical marijuana.
For their part, voters in Washington, D.C., approved a ballot measure telling police to lay off users of psychedelics. It says the local government should make the arrest or prosecution of people who use plants containing psilocybin, mescaline or ibogaine “among the lowest law enforcement priorities” for DC. Washington joins Denver, Oakland and Santa Cruz, which previously decriminalized psilocybin.
All of this shows that the voters are way ahead of the politicians when it comes to drugs. It’s the strongest evidence to date that people want to bring an end to the drug wars that have needlessly imprisoned millions, many of them poor and African-American.
Oregon’s Measure 110, the nation’s first all-drug decriminalization measure, is the most significant win for the reformers.
“Today’s victory is a landmark declaration that the time has come to stop criminalizing people for drug use,” said Kassandra Frederique, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, in a press release. “Measure 110 is arguably the biggest blow to the war on drugs to date.”
Oregon also pioneered the legalization of marijuana, she noted: “As we saw with the domino effect of marijuana legalization, we expect this victory to inspire other states to enact their own drug decriminalization policies that prioritize health over punishment.”
The Drug Policy Alliance, an advocacy group that was the first US project of George Soros’ Open Society Foundations, bet heavily on Measure 110, pouring well over $3.5m into the campaign. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative spent $500,000.
Oregon’s Measure 109 would allow people over 21 to take psilocybin at licensed centers, while monitored by trained therapists. It comes as evidence mounts that psilocybin is safe when administered in a clinical setting and that the drug, when accompanied by therapy, can alleviate suffering from a range of disorders, including depression, anxiety and addiction to tobacco and alcohol. Several private companies are conducting clinical trials aimed at getting FDA approval for psilocybin as a medicine.
Graham Boyd, the founding executive director of the New Approach PAC, which supports drug reform, and an advisor to Dr. Bronner’s, the family-owned soap company that put more than $1m behind the effort to pass Measure 109, told me by text:
This was a careful, thoughtfully designed initiative to give Oregonians legal access to a therapy with incredible potential. I’m proud to have been part of the team that put it together, and proud of the way our campaign focused on educating voters about a plant medicine that is too often misunderstood. When the rest of the country sees how this can be successfully implemented to the benefit of so many, I think it will open doors in many more places.
Major donors to the New Approach PAC, which also funded efforts to legalize marijuana, have included philanthropist Cari Tuna of the Open Philanthropy Project, the wife of Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz; Napster founder Sean Parker; the family of the late Peter Lewis, a longtime advocate for drug reform; and Alexandra Cohen of the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Foundation, whose hedge-fund husband Steve Cohen just bought the New York Mets.
Measure 109 calls for a two-year rule-making period to develop safety and training standards before licenses are given to psilocybin facilitators, service centers and manufacturers.
By email, Natalie Ginsberg, director of policy and advocacy for the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies, said the election delivered “resounding wins for drug reform across the country.”
“Washington, D.C.’s landslide vote to decriminalize psychedelic plants sends a powerful message to the rest of the nation, including to our elected officials on Capitol Hill, that connecting to ancestral traditions, facilitating healing and joy, or expanding spirituality through psychedelics should never end in incarceration,” Ginsberg said.
All of this surely bodes well for drug policy reform — one of the very few political project that can unite, not divide, the left and right in the US.
You can find the results of the drug-related ballot measures at Marijuana Moment.