As votes in the presidential race — as well as several key Senate races — continue to be counted, an unexpected victor has emerged from the diabolical fray of American electoral politics: drugs. Ballot initiatives decriminalizing some drug possession and use were passed in six states and the District of Columbia. In fact, voters approved drug decriminalization measures everywhere they were on the ballot.
The Washington Post reports that Oregon voted in a landslide to decriminalize carrying small amounts of illegal drugs, including heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. According to the Post, this measure is the first in any state to design a bill to dramatically lower drug arrests. Research conducted prior to the election by the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission found the measure could reduce “the significant overrepresentation of Black Oregonians” being arrested for minor drug offenses by almost 95 percent. Additionally, New Jersey, Arizona, South Dakota, and Montana are all projected to have voted in favor of ballot initiatives that will legalize recreational marijuana use, and voters in Mississippi overwhelmingly approved a measure to codify a medical marijuana program that will legalize the drug in the treatment of 22 medical conditions.
In addition to decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of illegal drugs, Oregon’s Measure 110 — which passed with nearly 60 percent of the vote — will also downgrade drug misdemeanor charges to noncriminal offenses, and those accused of carrying large amounts of drugs will be charged with misdemeanors rather than felonies. The measure will also fund drug-addiction treatment using a marijuana sales tax (weed has been legal in Oregon since 2015).
Drug Policy Alliance’s executive director Kassandra Frederique called the measure “the most significant reform in our nation’s failed drug policies in a generation … What the Oregon initiative represents is the ability to prioritize giving our loved ones the help, the resources that they need, and shunning criminalization.”
Oregon voters, not content merely with a landmark piece of legislation for decriminalizing drug possession, also legalized psilocybin (shrooms) for adults 21 and older. People in favor of the new law argued that it would inspire new legal treatments of depression and anxiety.
A D.C. ballot measure to decriminalize the use of mushrooms and other psychedelics also appears to have been approved; early results show that about three-quarters of voters were in favor.