Oregon Decriminalizes Heroin, Cocaine and Meth, While New Jersey Votes to Allow Recreational Marijuana Use

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In Oregon, the state took a radical approach by decriminalizing heroin, cocaine, and meth.

Voters in Oregon moved to decriminalize heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine, while New Jersey has passed its measure allowing the recreational use of marijuana. Such measures may affect the incarceration rates of Black and Latino Americans who advocates say are disproportionately punished for offenses connected to such narcotics. The move in some areas was also financially motivated, as tax revenue made from marijuana sales can be significant.

Oregon passed Measure 110 the first law of its kind in the country that decriminalizes hard drugs. The measure will see an end to the jailing of people for petty possession. Instead, starting Feb. 1, the new punishment will be the legal equivalent of a traffic ticket, with violators given the option of paying a $100 fine or being referred to options for addiction treatment. 

"There's a lot of people who want to see punitive drug laws done away with, and really the entire drug war,” Matt Sutton, a spokesperson for the Drug Policy Alliance, which organized the campaign for Measure 110, told VICE News. “This shows it's 100% possible that we can do that."

However, federal authorities will still be able to enforce drug laws in Oregon. Those found to possess large quantities of heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine still could face arrest and penalties under existing state laws.

Oregon also decriminalized mushrooms. Measure 109, which passed by 55.8%, permits licensed service providers to administer psilocybin-producing mushroom and fungi products to individuals 21 years of age or older. Psilocybin therapies have been studied to help some overcome addictions, anxiety and depression.

In D.C., voters appeared to approve a ballot question to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms as well. Initiative Measure No. 81 makes the investigation and arrest of adults for non‑commercial planting, cultivating, purchasing, transporting, distributing, possessing and/or engaging in practices with entheogenic plants and fungi among the Metropolitan Police Department’s lowest law enforcement priorities.

In New Jersey, more than two-thirds of voters threw their support behind legalizing the use of recreational marijuana for people 21 years of age or older.

"This is a great day for New Jersey. After years of political inaction, voters have definitively approved marijuana legalization," Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, told CBS New York.

New Jersey is the first state in the mid-Atlantic region to legalize recreational marijuana and is the 12th state to do so in the U.S.

New Jersey Senator Nicholas Scutari told CBS New York that the matter was a major justice issue, adding that arrests for possession are disproportionately higher for Black people and Latinos.

He also added the new industry would “create economic engine for the state, moving forward, but not just taxation, but with job creation.”

Arizona, Montana and South Dakota also voted to legalize marijuana for adults. South Dakota and Mississippi voted in favor of medical-marijuana programs.