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Oregon becomes first state to decriminalize possession of hard drugs such as heroin, meth, cocaine


'Today, the first domino of our cruel and inhumane war on drugs has fallen'

Photo by Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Oregon became the first state to decriminalize possession of small amounts of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and other drugs when a ballot measure on the issue took effect Monday, the Associated Press reported.

What are the details?

Other decriminalized drugs noted in the measure — which voters passed by a wide margin in November — include LSD, oxycodone, methadone, and MDMA (i.e., ecstasy), the AP said.

Rather than facing serious charges, now those found in possession of such drugs will face a $100 fine, the outlet said.

Matt Sutton — spokesman for the Drug Policy Alliance, which led the ballot initiative — told the AP that the civil citation will be "like a traffic ticket." The other consequence may be a health assessment that could lead to addiction counseling, the outlet added.

"Today, the first domino of our cruel and inhumane war on drugs has fallen, setting off what we expect to be a cascade of other efforts centering health over criminalization," Kassandra Frederique, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, told the AP.

More from the outlet:

Under the new system, addiction recovery centers will be tasked with "triaging the acute needs of people who use drugs and assessing and addressing any on-going needs thorough intensive case management and linkage to care and services."

The addiction recovery centers will be funded by millions of dollars of tax revenue from Oregon's legalized marijuana industry. That diverts some funds from other programs and entities that already receive it, like schools.

The ballot measure capped the amount of pot tax revenue that schools; mental health alcoholism and drug services; the state police; and cities and counties receive at $45 million annually, with the rest going to a "Drug Treatment and Recovery Services Fund."

The fund will be stacked with cash if the trend for marijuana sales continues as projected, the AP said, adding that marijuana tax revenues peaked at $133 million In fiscal year 2020 — a 30% increase over the previous year and a 545% increase over 2016 when pot tax collection from registered recreational marijuana outfits commenced.

The outlet said two dozen district attorneys opposed the measure, saying it was reckless and would lead to an increase in the acceptability of dangerous drugs.

Anything else?

Oregon is a pioneer in liberalizing drug laws, the AP reported, noting that in 1973 it became the first state to decriminalize marijuana possession — and in 2014, voters passed a ballot measure legalizing recreational marijuana use.

But Sutton told the outlet there are no plans to pursue legalization and a regulated market of hard drugs in the state.

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