Oregon leads the way in decriminalizing hard drugs

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Yes on Measure 110 Campaign

FILE - This June 26, 2020 file photo from video provided by the Yes on Measure 110 Campaign shows volunteers delivering boxes containing signed petitions in favor of the measure to the Oregon Secretary of State's office in Salem. The measure said the U.S., possession of small amounts of heroin, cocaine, LSD and other hard drugs would be decriminalized in Oregon. Election returns show the measure passed on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3. (Yes on Measure 110 Campaign via AP, File)

SALEM, Ore. – In a first in the nation, Oregon has rejected charging drug users with criminal offenses, with voters passing a ballot measure that decriminalizes possession of heroin, methamphetamine, LSD, oxycodone and other hard drugs.

“Today’s victory is a landmark declaration that the time has come to stop criminalizing people for drug use,” said Kassandra Frederique, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which was behind the measure. “Measure 110 is arguably the biggest blow to the war on drugs to date.”

The measure completely changes how Oregon’s justice system treats those who are found with personal-use amounts of the hard drugs.

Instead of going to trial and facing possible jail time, a person would have the option of paying a $100 fine or attending new “addiction recovery centers” funded by millions of dollars of tax revenue from Oregon's legalized, regulated marijuana industry.

The passage of the measure makes Oregon, which in 1973 became the first state to decriminalize marijuana possession, a pioneer in America in trying the same with hard drugs. The measure takes effect 30 days after Tuesday’s election, but the punishment changes don't take effect until Feb. 1. Addiction recovery centers must be available by Oct. 1.

It may sound like a radical concept, but the initiative's backers said making criminals out of drug users — locking them up and burdening them with criminal records that made it difficult to find housing and jobs — was not working.

One in 11 Oregonians is addicted to drugs, and nearly two people die every day from overdoses in the state, the Oregon Nurses Association, the Oregon Chapter American College of Physicians and the Oregon Academy of Family Physicians had said in support of the measure.

“We urgently need a change to save families and save lives,” they wrote.