‘Radical’ Drug-Policy Overhaul on Oregon Ballot
Oregon has an addiction problem. Pockets of rural poverty, chronic homelessness and cities with many young people have given the state one of the nation’s highest rates of substance abuse. It is also one of the toughest places to get treatment, reports the New York Times. A proposition on next week’s ballot would be one of the most radical drug-law overhauls in the nation’s history, eliminating criminal penalties for personal use amounts of drugs such as heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine. Tax revenues from drug sales would be channeled toward drug treatment. Supporters of Measure 110 say this year’s transformational forces — the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the wave of social unrest over race and policing — have highlighted a need for top-to-bottom change. Opponents say decriminalization risks disaster by normalizing drugs that carry the risk of deadly addiction.
Legal marijuana has found a place on the ballot this year in Arizona, Mississippi, Montana and South Dakota. National groups say success in those states could bring Republican elected officials into Congress with constituents who have said yes to legalization, potentially tipping the balance on federal drug policy. Money is an undercurrent, as many state budgets face big shortfalls as a result of the drop-off in consumer spending during the pandemic. “The pandemic has only highlighted and intensified the need for new options,” said Sam Chapman of Yes on 109, a separate drug measure on the Oregon ballot that would make psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms, legal for mental health treatment. Voters in Washington, D.C., will decide in a ballot measure whether to make possession of fungi-based psychedelics the lowest level of police priority.