The state of Oregon broke the prohibition ice jam a little more than a year ago when voters there legalized the possession of all illicit drugs, making it the first state in the nation to do so. While old school cannabis reformers always knew that economics would be the Achilles heel of prohibition, as cannabis and other psychoactive and euphoric substances have for decades fueled a nationwide black market, it was unclear what the other impacts of legalization would be.
Now we get a glimpse of the positive side-effects that reforming America’s failed drug laws can induce. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana (NORML) reports that over $300 million has been generated by Oregon’s decision to relax its drug laws and that money is being diverted to community treatment and harm reduction programs.
Oregon’s law, Measure 10, ended the arrest and incarceration for minor possession of any drug, with offenders receiving a civil fine instead of jail time. Those fines can be waived if those found in low-level possession attend a meeting to determine if they have a substance use disorder.
“A year ago, Oregonians voted yes on Measure 110 to remove criminal penalties for possession of drugs and expand access to health services. Now, because of this measure, there are thousands of people in Oregon that will never have to experience the devastating life-long barriers of having a drug arrest on their record, which disproportionately and unjustly affected Black and Indigenous people due to targeted policing,” said Kassandra Frederique, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “ Because of this measure, there is more than $300 million in funding that did not exist before being funneled into community organizations to provide adequate and culturally competent care that people desperately need,” she continued.
Reformers forecasted that Measure 10 would result in as many as 9,000 fewer annual drug possession arrests and a 95% reduction in racially disproportional drug arrests, however, the jury is still out as that data is not yet available. Measure 10 designated an upper limit for possession of each substance to qualify as personal use. For example, possession of 1 to 3 grams of heroin is now a misdemeanor in Oregon while possessing more than three grams still constitutes a felony.
According to NORML, regional activists maintain that a single gram is not a large enough amount to be considered a misdemeanor, and they are eager to review coming data on arrests to ascertain whether legal possession amounts should be increased.
The oldest American reform organization also points out that Oregon is one of the worst-performing states for access to drug treatment programs, which makes the funds generated by the legalization of drugs that much more significant. So far 70 organizations spanning 26 counties have already been given funds under Measure 10, which prioritizes low-income communities and those with no insurance.
Feature photo: Courtesy https://cbdoracle.com/learn/
Vivian McPeak is a Seattle based social justice activist, media personality, and writer. Vivian is the president of Seattle Events, a Non-Profit Organization, producer of the Seattle HEMPFEST®, the world’s largest annual cannabis policy reform rally. The recipient of the High Times Magazine 2012 Lester Grinspoon Lifetime Achievement Award and DOPE Magazine 2016 Emery Award for lifetime achievement, and in 2016 he was named one of the “50 Most Influential People” by Seattle Magazine. Vivian has appeared on numerous television and cable news networks, including FOX News, CNN, & NBC. McPeak is the host of Hempresent, a weekly radio podcast on Cannabis Radio with listeners on multiple continents.