Five States Legalize Marijuana, Oregon Decriminalizes Hard Drugs

Voters across five states adopted various legalization measures on Tuesday and Oregon became the first state to decriminalize hard drugs.

What We Know:

  • Four states had measures on their ballots to legalize recreational use of marijuana, and Mississippi posed the question of legal medical marijuana to its voters.
  • Voters in Arizona, South Dakota, New Jersey, and Montana all said “yes” to the proposals on their ballots to allow purchase and possession of recreational marijuana.
  • South Dakota became the rare state to “leapfrog” marijuana laws, legalizing medical use and recreational use in the same election. South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem was vehemently against legalizing marijuana and urged residents to vote no, saying “I’ve never met someone who got smarter from smoking pot.”
  • Oregon became the first state to decriminalize hard drugs. The ballot measure was meant to decriminalize the possession of drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and LSD. It was supported by criminal justice reform groups as a way to divert people from jails and expand access to treatment and recovery.
  • These measures go a long way in addressing the war on drugs and racist policing in Black and brown communities. Arizona’s proposal allows people with convictions to apply for records expungement. Oregon’s initiative for hard drugs will allow people to avoid trial and jail time and attend addiction programs.
  • The measures in all states were called by the media as wins just hours after polls closed. The wide margins in favor of legalization is a shift in the public perception of drugs and could have implications for federal drug laws. “Today’s victory is a landmark declaration that the time has come to stop criminalizing people for drug use,” said Kassandra Frederique of the Drug Policy Alliance.

Voters sent a clear message about legalizing and decriminalizing drug use, and now the question is if politicians will listen to them on the national level.

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