While a number of states had ballot initiatives dealing with marijuana, it was Oregon’s Measure 110 that pushed the envelope to new limits. “In a historic, paradigm-shifting win and arguably the biggest blow to the war on drugs to date, Oregon voters passed Measure 110, the nation’s first all-drug decriminalization measure," wrote Kassandra Frederique, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “This confirms a substantial shift in public support in favor of treating drug use with health services rather than with criminalization… Last night, Oregon showed the world that a more humane, compassionate approach is possible.”
Frederique said drug possession is one of the top reasons that individuals are arrested in the U.S., and those arrests occur every 23 seconds.
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"Shout out to the hard work of grassroots organizers who successfully led a wave of marijuana legalization, expungement, & drug decriminalization efforts last night."
According to the Associated Press, the Oregon initiative will permit those arrested for possession of “hard drugs” to avoid trial and jail time by paying $100 fine and seeking help from a recovery program. The news outlet reports treatment centers will also be funded by revenue generated from legal marijuana sales, which has been collected in the state for several years.
The alliance also pointed out New Jersey, South Dakota, Arizona and Montana were added to the list of states that permit adult recreational use. Those states bring the total to 15, plus Washington D.C., that have some form of a recreational use law on the books. Further, Mississippi and South Dakota also passed new medical marijuana rules, they said.
"A review of studies on the impact of drug decriminalization policies found that 'legal reform was most often not associated with changes in use.'”
It is unclear exactly how new drug laws will play out long term. Many states are in the infancy of the decriminalization experiment and there are still a lot of unanswered questions. The National Institute of Justice did a study of the state of Washington’s marijuana legalization efforts and reported a “varied set of outcomes.”
“Analysis of these data found that Washington’s marijuana legalization has not had an overall consistently positive or negative effect on measured public safety indicators,” they wrote. “Rather, marijuana legalization has resulted in a varied set of outcomes, including concern about youth accessing marijuana, increased driving under the influence of marijuana, and a prevalent belief that there has been an increase in the cross-border transfer of legal marijuana to states that have not legalized marijuana sale and use.”
The report also found legalization has reduced the number of individuals processed in the criminal justice system charged with nonviolent possession, wrote the institute.