SALEM, Ore. (Nov. 5, 2020) – On Tuesday, Oregon voters approved a measure to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of several drugs including heroin and cocaine – despite federal prohibition.
Measure 110 passed by 58.8 percent to 41.2 percent.
The measure decriminalizes personal possession of less than one gram of heroin or methamphetamine; two grams of cocaine; 12 grams of psilocybin mushrooms; 40 doses of LSD, oxycodone or methadone; and one gram or five pills of MDMA. Instead of facing arrest and the possibility of jail time, individuals caught with the drugs will now have a choice between paying a $100 fine or attending free addiction recovery centers. The state will fund the centers with revenue collected from the state’s marijuana tax.
The Oregon Nurses Association, the Oregon chapter of the American College of Physicians and the Oregon Academy of Family Physicians all backed the ballot measure.
“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.
Several state district attorneys and law enforcement lobbies strongly opposed the measure.
The Oregon ballot measure takes efforts to decriminalize drugs to the next level. Last month, Ann Arbor became the third city in the U.S. to decriminalize “magic mushrooms.” Oakland and Denver have also effectively decriminalized psilocybin – a substance hallucinogenic substance found in certain mushrooms. A number of studies have shown psilocybin to be effective in the treatment of depression, PTSD, chronic pain and addiction. For instance, a Johns Hopkins study found that “psilocybin produces substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer.”
Decriminalization efforts at the state and local level are moving forward despite the federal government’s prohibition of these various substances.
Under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970, the federal government maintains the complete prohibition of many of the drugs on Oregon’s decriminalization list and heavily regulates others. Of course, the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to ban or regulate such substances within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.
Passage of Measure 110 ends criminal enforcement of laws prohibiting the possession of these and other drugs in Oregon. As we’ve seen with marijuana and hemp, when states and localities stop enforcing laws banning a substance, the federal government finds it virtually impossible to maintain prohibition. For instance, FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By curtailing or ending state prohibition, states sweep part of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.
Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly annual budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution either. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state and local assistance, and the same will likely hold true with other drugs.