5th November 2020
By Emily Ledger
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While a number of states have taken the decision to approve drug policy reforms in recent years, many of these reforms have focused solely on cannabis. However, the voters of Oregon have made history by making it the first US state to decriminalise the possession of small amounts of all types of drugs.

In 2001, Portugal became the first country in the world to decriminalise the possession and use of all drugs. This policy took over from outright prohibition – the stance that the majority of countries continue to take around the world. Switzerland and The Netherlands have also introduced the decriminalisation of the possession of some hard drugs.

Despite the success that these countries have seen following the introduction of this policy, other countries are yet to embrace the deviation from the ‘War on Drugs’.

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What Did the Voters in Oregon Support?

The USA has become almost synonymous with the War on Drugs – an initiative that has been exported to the four corners of the globe. Police have enforced laws to prohibit the sale, possession, and use of all kinds of drugs for many decades, but this was ramped up in the 1970s. The War on Drugs has come under constant scrutiny in recent years as drug abuse and addiction is as much – if not more – of a problem now than it has ever been.

Many critics of prohibition have theorised and advocated for a different approach to drugs – namely, decriminalisation. In Oregon, voters have come out in support for Measure 110, which will decriminalise the possession of small amounts of hard drugs, including cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, ecstasy, LSD, methadone, and oxycodone.

In place of criminal punishment and possibly facing incarceration, those found in possession of drugs will have the choice of a $100 fine or to attend newly launched “addiction recovery centres”. These addiction recovery centres will be financed with the help of state revenue raised through the legal and regulated cannabis industry. In addition, the use of psilocybin mushrooms for medical purposes.

Legal Cannabis in the USA

In 1973, Oregon became the pioneers of cannabis legislation reform, becoming the first US state to decriminalise cannabis. Oregon was also one of the first states to introduce a legal, regulated commercial cannabis industry in 2014. When the voter initiatives of this year’s election have been implemented, a total of 15 states will have legalised the recreational adult-use of cannabis.

The landmark decriminalisation measure passed in Oregon, however, will lead many to look to the future with the hopes of even more meaningful drug policy reforms throughout the country and, perhaps, the rest of the world.

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