Oregon Is First in Nation for Big Decriminalization Step

Decriminalizes possession of street drugs including heroin, in small amounts
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 4, 2020 12:01 AM CST
Oregon Is First in Nation for Big Decriminalization Step
Election workers organize ballots at the Multnomah County Elections Division Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020 in Portland, Ore.   (AP Photo/Paula Bronstein)

Oregon made a major reversal in the nationwide "war on drugs" Tuesday, voting to decriminalize possession of small amounts of street drugs including heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, ecstasy, LSD, psilocybin, methadone, and oxycodone. It's the first state in the nation to do so, Oregon Live reports. "Today is a huge day of celebration but the work is not over and we have a lot more work to do to win a better system for everybody," the campaign manager for the measure says.

Activists have long decried drug laws that disproportionately affect people of color and result in nonviolent offenders crowding jails instead of getting treatment. Under Oregon's new law, misdemeanor drug possession turns into a non-criminal offense similar to a traffic ticket, and many felonies will become misdemeanors and see penalties reduced. More treatment centers will also be funded, and will replace jail sentences in some cases. The AP, which notes Oregon also became the first state to legalize the therapeutic use of psychedelic mushrooms, has more on the "nationwide push to relax drug laws." (More Election 2020 stories.)

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