Oregon has become the first state in the country to decriminalize all drug possession in what has been described as a landmark vote.
Although some US states have previously put a stop to felony charges for the use of all illegal drugs, Oregon is the first to decriminalize them.
Measure 110, which has now been passed, will significantly change how Oregon’s justice system treats those who’ve been caught possessing drugs for their personal use.
Rather than arrest, trial, and potential jail time, those caught would be given the choice to either pay $100 fines or attend free addiction recovery centers.
These new recovery centers will be funded through tax revenue generated from retail marijuana sales in Oregon, with the state having previously been the very first in the US to decriminalize marijuana possession. In addition, these measures will also fund various services for those with addiction issues, including health assessments, addiction treatment, and harm-reduction efforts.
However, this does not mean that the drugs will be legalized. The selling and manufacturing of such narcotics will still be considered illegal.
It’s expected that this policy change will generate savings in the criminal justice system due to fewer drug arrests, prosecutions, and incarcerations, with savings being redirected into a new state-wide fund for treatments and other such services.
According to AP news, Oregon’s new legislation has been backed by the Oregon Nurses Association, the Oregon chapter of the American College of Physicians, and the Oregon Academy of Family Physicians.
“Punishing people for drug use and addiction is costly and hasn’t worked. More drug treatment, not punishment, is a better approach,” the groups said in a joint statement.
“Misguided drug laws have created deep disparities in the justice system. Arresting people with addictions is a cruel punishment because it slaps them with a lifelong criminal record that can ruin lives,” Attorney Mike Schmidt said of Multnomah District said.
The news comes as the US states of New Jersey, Montana, South Dakota, and Arizona voted to legalize recreational marijuana, with medical marijuana having also been legalized in Mississippi.
“Legalisation is the result of years of hard work from a diverse group of individuals and communities. Senator Nick Scutari’s idea that used to generate snickers in the halls of Trenton when he first talked about it has finally become a reality,” Scott Rudder, president of the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association, told NJ.com.