A Clean Sweep for Drug Reform Initiatives [FEATURE]

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #1114)

The day after Election Day, national election results remained muddy, but one thing was crystal clear: the American public is ready for drug reform. Drug reform initiatives went nine for nine on Tuesday. With successful marijuana legalization initiatives in two of the reddest of the red states to a groundbreaking drug decriminalization initiative and the first voter-approved psychedelic liberalization initiatives, we can see the erosion of drug prohibition happening right before our eyes.

[image:1 align:left]Perhaps the most striking victory of all is Oregon's Measure 110, which will decriminalize the possession of personal use amounts of all drugs and use revenues from legal marijuana sales to help fund expanded drug treatment. People caught with drugs can either pay a $100 fine or complete a health assessment. Distribution of such drugs would remain criminalized.

The notion of not arresting people just for having or using "hard" drugs is a radical one in the United States, but increasingly common in the rest of the world. At least 29 countries have embraced some form of drug decriminalization, and even the US has seen marijuana possession decriminalized in a number of states. But not cocaine or heroin or meth or LSD. Or not until Tuesday, when more than 58% of Oregon voters said let's try something new.

"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, in an email message on Tuesday evening. "Measure 110 is arguably the biggest blow to the war on drugs to date. It shifts the focus where it belongs -- on people and public health -- and removes one of the most common justifications for law enforcement to harass, arrest, prosecute, incarcerate, and deport people. As we saw with the domino effect of marijuana legalization, we expect this victory to inspire other states to enact their own drug decriminalization policies that prioritize health over punishment."

Drug Policy Alliance and its lobbying arm, Drug Policy Action Network, spearheaded the Measure 110 campaign, just as they backed the state's successful 2014 marijuana legalization initiative.

And speaking of marijuana legalization, the weed swept to victory everywhere it was on the ballot -- in Arizona and New Jersey but also in deeply conservative Montana and South Dakota. That means the number of states that have freed the weed jumped from 11 to 15.

"From the Badlands to the Jersey Shore, and from the Grand Canyon to Big Sky Country, Americans across the country have embraced the idea that marijuana legalization is the policy decision that best serves the interests of public health, public safety, and, most importantly, justice," Matthew Schweich, deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project and one of the leaders of the Montana and South Dakota campaigns, said in a Wednesday email.

In Arizona, the marijuana legalization initiative, Proposition 207: The Smart & Safe Arizona Act, cruised to victory Tuesday night with 60 percent of the vote. It will legalize marijuana for people 21 and over and allow for home grows of up to six plants. The state will regulate a legal marijuana market with a 16% tax on retail sales.

"Arizona voters have spoken, and they are ready for marijuana legalization," said Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, in a Tuesday night email. "According to the latest Gallup poll, 66% of Americans support marijuana legalization, and this victory further reinforces that stance," Hawkins added. "We are poised for major marijuana reform federally. Regardless of who controls the White House, the House, or the Senate, Americans are ready for legal marijuana."

In Montana, Constitutional Initiative 118 and Initiative 190 won with 58 percent and 57 percent of the vote, respectively. I-190 is a statutory initiative that would legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana for adults 21 and over. CI-118 is a constitutional initiative that would allow I-190 to set the minimum age at 21, as is the age for alcohol consumption in the state.

In New Jersey, Public Question 1 is a legislatively referred constitutional amendment that legalizes marijuana for people 21 and over and allows for system of regulated to the state sales tax of 6.625%. It leaves questions such as possession limits and whether to allow home grows up the legislature and state regulators. It won with a resounding 67 percent of the vote.

In South Dakota, Constitutional Amendment A won 54 percent of the vote in a state where more than 60 percent voted for Donald Trump. The measure will legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by people 21 and over and allow for the home cultivation of up to three plants in jurisdictions with no retail marijuana outlets. It also envisions a legal marijuana market with a sales tax of 15% and requires the state legislature to pass laws providing for medical marijuana and hemp by next spring.

"This historic set of victories will place even greater pressure on Congress to address the glaring and untenable conflicts between state and federal laws when it comes to cannabis legalization," said Hawkins. "With the passage of these initiatives, one-third of the population now lives in jurisdictions that have legalized cannabis for adult use, and 70% of all states have embraced cannabis for medical use."

And speaking of cannabis for medical use, two deep red states, Mississippi and South Dakota both approved medical marijuana initiatives on Tuesday night. Mississippi's Initiative 65 overcome a watered down legislative alternative to win with 74 percent of the vote, while South Dakota's Measure 26 won with 70 percent. That brings the number of states with access to medical marijuana to 38.

And then, there's the psychedelic front. On the East Coast, Washington, DC, voters approved Initiative 81, the Entheogenic Plant and Fungi Policy Act of 2020, with 74 percent of the vote. The measure will have police treat natural plant medicines (entheogens) as their lowest law enforcement priority. The measure also asks the city's top prosecutor and its US Attorney to not prosecute such cases.

"Initiative 81's success was driven by grassroots support from DC voters. We are thrilled that DC residents voted to support common sense drug policy reforms that help end part of the war on drugs while ensuring that DC residents benefiting from plant and fungi medicines are not police targets," Decriminalize Nature DC Chairwoman Melissa Lavasani said in a press release.

And on the West Coast, Oregon voters didn't just decriminalize drugs, they also passed Measure 109, the Psilocybin Services Act, with 56 percent of the vote. It will create a program to allow the administration of psilocybin products, such as magic mushrooms, to adults 21 and over for therapeutic purposes. People will be allowed to buy, possess, and consume psilocybin at a psilocybin services center, but only after undergoing a preparation session and under the supervision of a psilocybin service facilitator.

Altogether, a stellar night for drug reform at the ballot box. Marijuana legalization continues its inexorable advance across the land, and new fronts are now open on psychedelics and broader drug decriminalization. A few more bricks fell from the wall of drug prohibition this Election Day.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


All 9 of the 9 Decrim initiatives passed, across the U.S., including 3 which include entheogens. In Oregon, it will be interesting to see how the polar opposites interact; each was written as if a lone initiative, but now the context has mutually changed: Narrowest decrim: OR 109 (Psilocybin clinics) Broadest decrim: OR 110 (all drgs)
Mon, 11/09/2020 - 4:20pm Permalink

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