Drug Laws Are Changing — Here’s What That Means

June 30, 2021

3 min read

Lost in the chaos and bickering of a hotly contested presidential election were historic votes about drug policy. From sweeping decriminalization of drugs in Oregon to legalizing recreational use of marijuana in more states, a new wave of drug reform is underway across our country. 

Nine drug reform measures were on the ballot on November 3, 2020. All nine passed.

Let’s take a look at what happened in Oregon and other states and how new drug laws reflect Americans’ evolving views on drugs. 

Oregon Votes for Mass Decriminalization of Illicit Drugs

While most drug reform initiatives have focused on marijuana, Oregon took a giant step forward in voting to decriminalize possession of small amounts of all types of drugs. Incidentally, Oregon became the first state to decriminalize marijuana back in 1973 and legalized recreational use in 2014.

Passage of Measure 110 means possession of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, ecstasy, LSD, methadone, oxycodone, and other drugs will no longer be considered a criminal offense. 

Those possessing drugs will have the option to pay a fine of $100 or participate in an addiction treatment program funded in part by taxes from marijuana sales.

The goal of the new drug law is to reduce the number of arrests and incarceration and focus on rehabilitation rather than criminal punishment. The law is expected to decrease the risk of drug overdoses, COVID-19 exposure, and other health problems associated with jail time. Racial disparities in drug arrests and sentencing are also likely to be reduced as a result of drug policy reform.

Proponents of the new drug law believe it could result in $100 million in law enforcement savings, which could then be reinvested in addiction services. 

Oregonians also voted to legalize psilocybin, also called psychedelic or magic mushrooms, for medical purposes. These substances may only be used at licensed facilities for mental health purposes. Recent research suggests psilocybin could be an effective treatment for major depressive disorders.

New Drug Laws Pass in Other States

Decriminalization of recreational marijuana use for adults 21 and over passed in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota, while Mississippi and South Dakota voted to legalize medical marijuana. Montana and Arizona will also allow people serving sentences related to marijuana to seek reduced sentences or even expungement.

These votes bring the number of states that have legalized marijuana for medical use to 35 and recreational use to 15. 

Unfortunately, marijuana is still illegal under federal law and accounted for 40 percent of all drug arrests in the United States in 2018, according to Pew Research. Meanwhile, a Gallup poll shows that two thirds of American support marijuana legalization.

Washington DC also decriminalized psychedelic mushrooms. Under the new drug policy, law enforcement must make investigations and arrests involving entheogenic plants and fungi the lowest priority.

Voters Want Drug Policy Reform

We can safely conclude that the War on Drugs did not work in a similar way, and for similar reasons, that Prohibition did not work. In short, criminal punishment for drug-related crimes has proven to be an ineffective deterrent. Rather than a criminal issue, people around the world are recognizing that drug use is a public health and safety issue.

State governments are catching up to voters’ views on drug laws and decriminalization. When will the federal government catch up to the states? 

To maximize the impact of drug laws, there needs to be a unified approach to drug policy reform that shifts the focus from punishment to the health of people. While the trend towards marijuana decriminalization continues to spread, broader drug legalization is expected to follow.

Find Co-Ed Medical Detox for Substance Use Disorders at DetoxLA

Although drugs continue to be decriminalized, addiction to drugs remains a serious problem. Fortunately, DetoxLA provides personalized addiction treatment and rehab services from our Los Angeles detox center. 

Contact Detox LA today to learn more about our co-ed detox program.

MEET THE AUTHOR

Dane is the Director of Brand Strategy for Never Alone Recovery, where he helps brands in the mental health, addiction, and recovery industries connect with their audiences. Dane’s interests include technology, the film industry, travel, marketing, music, and coffee.

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