Washington, California, and Vermont Are Following Oregon’s Lead on Drug Policy

Oregon has been a pioneer on cannabis and drug policy ever since the Beaver State became the first to decriminalize the personal possession of cannabis back in 1973. One of the first states to legalize both medical and adult use cannabis, Oregon really took a sledgehammer to the failed and harmful Drug War by passing Measure 110 last November with over 58% of the vote. Measure 110 decriminalized the personal possession of drugs while setting aside millions of dollars in excess cannabis tax revenue to fund drug treatment, harm reduction, and recovery services. As we’ve seen with cannabis policy, other states are greatly influenced by advancements of previous states, and Washington, California, and Vermont have all taken steps, following Oregon’s lead.

First up was Oregon’s Great Northwest neighbor, as Marijuana Moment reported:

A landmark drug decriminalization and treatment bill in Washington State cleared its first legislative hurdle on Monday, with a panel of lawmakers voting to advance the measure just hours before a key deadline.

The House Public Safety Committee voted 7–6 to approve the Pathways to Recovery Act, HB 1499, which would remove penalties for “personal use” amounts of illegal substances and expand outreach and recovery services. The vote is the first time a panel of lawmakers in any U.S. state has voted to remove criminal penalties for possession of all drugs.

“This bill is an assertion that substance use disorder is treatable brain disease from which people recover,” lead sponsor Rep. Lauren Davis (D) said before the vote. “This bill is about reaching each and every person living with substance use disorder, before they ever touch the criminal legal system.”

Then, a great bill has been introduced by a legislator in Oregon’s southern neighbor, as the Guardian covered:

California lawmaker has introduced legislation that would decriminalize psychedelics in the state, the latest bold step in a movement to end America’s war on drugs.

Scott Wiener, the state senator who authored the bill, hopes that in following the lead of places such as Oakland, Santa Cruz and the District of Columbia – all cities which have decriminalized psychedelics – California will move one step closer to decriminalizing the use and possession of all drugs, something that Oregon passed by voter initiative in November.

“People should not be going to jail for possessing or using drugs,” Wiener told the Guardian. “It’s a health issue, not a criminal issue, and I hope that we get all the way there.”

And there’s positive news out of Vermont as well:

It’s time for Vermont to decriminalize all drugs, said several left-leaning lawmakers and Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah George on Wednesday. The push for decriminalization came during a press conference during which lawmakers unveiled a number of new bills to address the state’s overdose crisis.

By November of 2020, 134 overdose deaths had been reported that year in Vermont, compared to 99 deaths in 2019, according to the state Department of Health. Lawmakers said the pandemic has made life harder for Vermonters struggling with substance use — a population they said has been overlooked by the state’s Covid response efforts. 

“Drugs are not illegal because they are dangerous, but they are certainly more dangerous because they’re illegal,” said George, a longtime proponent of progressive drug policies. “Everything is safer when it’s legalized and regulated, and legal drugs are safer than illegal drugs.”

All of the statewide reforms, including Oregon, followed in the footsteps of local measures in Colorado and California, and everyone is following the lead of Portugal, who demonstrated that drug use should be treated as a health issue instead of a criminal one over two decades ago. Everyone can see that the Drug War has failed on virtually every level. Whether you are a compassionate progressive or a conservative that cares about wasteful spending, the War on Drugs is a disaster. It has fueled mass incarceration, the New Jim Crow, as Oregon-born Professor Michelle Alexander has written about, resulting in a “monstrous, incoherent mess” as neuroscientist Dr. Carl Hart recently opined in his new book. Drugs used to be a “third rail” in American politics, something that people, especially elected officials wouldn’t touch. It’s great to see that the times are a-changin’ as more and more people are saying “no” to the Drug War, step by step, state by state.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s