Tag: drug decriminalization

Oregon Senator’s Medical Cannabis Veterans Amendment Passes Key Committee

“We have now 36 states that have medical cannabis, and our veterans want to know from their VA doctor what their thoughts are on the pros and cons or appropriate role or challenges of this particular strategy for treating a variety of issues, including PTSD. I think it’s really important that we not force our veterans to be unable to discuss this issue with their doctors.” Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley.

There are a lot of tragedies caused by the war on cannabis and one is the lack of access provided to military veterans who could benefit from medical cannabis recommended by their doctor, especially with so many vets suffering from post-traumatic stress. A suicide epidemic has been raging for far too long among those that sacrificed for our nation and VA physicians have been denied the ability to recommend medical cannabis to their patients. Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley is hoping to change that and he’s well on his way after an amendment that he’s championed has passed a key Senate committee as Marijuana Moment reported:

“A powerful Senate committee on Wednesday approved an amendment that’s meant to promote military veterans’ access to medical marijuana by allowing doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to issue cannabis recommendations in legal states.

“The measure, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), passed in the Senate Appropriations Committee on a voice vote. It would further prohibit VA from interfering with, or denying services to, veterans who participate in a state-legal medical cannabis program.”

It seems common sense that doctors operating within a state with legal cannabis would be able to recommend a relatively safe medicine to their patients, but when it comes to Reefer Madness prohibition, common sense has too often been ignored. With the political climate catching up to the science, we are finally seeing progress in Congress and it will be heartening to see former service members have state-legal medical options available to them.

While there’s much more work to be done to see this amendment in a final bill, making it through the Senate Appropriations Committee is an important step in the process. Merkley’s work demonstrates the importance of Oregon’s pioneering work battling the War on Drugs. There is no way that a sitting United States senator goes alone on an issue without the strong backing of his constituents. Regardless of your party affiliation, it’s imperative that we continue to help lead the way on ending the failed and harmful Drug War. Time and time again, we have seen Oregon helping lead the way on much-needed cannabis and drug policy reforms, going back to 1973 when the Beaver State was the first to decriminalize cannabis. With Oregonians legalizing psilocybin therapy and decriminalizing personal drug possession in 2020, we can expect our representatives in DC to continue pushing the envelope in our fight for freedom and common sense.

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Poll: 66% of Americans Favor Following Oregon’s Lead and Decriminalizing Drugs

Like cannabis legalization before it, decriminalizing drugs used to seem like a far-fetched idea that would remain out of reach, thanks to decades of of propaganda and billions spent by the prison-industrial complex entrenching the Drug War within our society. However, 50 years after Richard Nixon first declared the War on Drugs, a new poll shows that a supermajority of Americans have declared the War on Drugs a failure with 66% wanting to follow Oregon’s lead in “eliminating criminal penalties for drug possession and reinvesting drug enforcement resources into treatment and addiction services.”

The support for decriminalizing drugs jumped 11% from a CATO poll in 2019 that found that 55% of voters favored ending criminal penalties for possession. Adding that enforcement resources would be invested in treatment could explain a lot of the 11 point jump in support, a winning policy combination that garnered the support of nearly 59% of Oregonians who voted for Measure 110 last November. The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) backed the Bully Pulpit Interactive poll and released statements regarding the findings:

“A different reality – one where we treat people who use drugs with dignity and respect, and one where drugs are no longer an excuse for law enforcement to surveil, harass, assault and even kill Black, Latinx and Indigenous people – is 100 percent possible, and these results clearly prove that,” said Kassandra Frederique, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

“On this 50th anniversary of the drug war, President Biden must make good on his campaign promises and take steps to begin dismantling the system of over-policing and mass incarceration that is endemic to the War on Drugs. Today, drug possession continues to be the number one arrest in the United States, with  more than 1.35 million arrests per year. Every 25 seconds, a person is arrested for possessing drugs for personal use, with Black people disproportionately targeted by this over-policing,” said Udi Ofer, Director of the ACLU’S Justice Division.

With a whopping 83% of US voters agreeing that the War on Drugs has failed, it’s clearly time for citizens, legislators, and policymakers to look to implement sensible reforms that will treat drug use as a health matter, instead of a criminal one. We aren’t going to arrest and jail our way towards a drug-free society. It’s time to quit being naive and be realistic. Not many enjoy admitting that they made a mistake, but Uncle Sam made a huge one waging war against our own citizens. What people are finally realizing is that our policies shouldn’t be determined by our feelings about drugs, but about our concerns about what is best for our people. What do you want for your loved ones that may use drugs? Do you want a prison sentence without any adequate treatment or recovery programs or do you want to provide them with the health services that they may need? We should be investing in people, not prisons and while it’s five decades too late, it’s never too late to do the right thing. It’s time to end the Drug War.

Bully Pulpit Interactive (BPI) conducted a nationally representative survey among 800 registered voters between
May 17- 20, 2021. 400 interviews were conducted via phone (40% cell) and 400 conducted online. Results were
weighted to be representative of the nation’s registered voters. While margin of error calculations do not apply to
non-random samples, the margin of error on a truly random sample of 800 is +/- 3.46 percentage points at the
95% confidence interval.

Kind Leaf is proud to help fund important treatment, harm reduction, and recovery services that benefit our local community.

Washington State Follow’s Oregon’s Lead and Decriminalizes Personal Drug Possession

As one of the chief petitioners for the Oregon Measure 110 drug decriminalization measure, I’ve often been asked about which states would be the next to follow suit and swing a big sledgehammer at the the failed and racist Drug War and I always mentioned our great friend and neighbor to the north for a number of reasons. Washington and Oregon have both been pioneers on cannabis and other progressive reforms, such as voting by mail, death with dignity, and bottle deposits. Plus, both states have the initiative process that make “controversial” policy changes possible as too many legislators and policymakers tend to be too conservative to pass Drug War reforms until overwhelming voter support forces their hand, about a decade after a majority of the population is ready for the change. If it wasn’t for the COVID pandemic, an initiative similar to M110 would have likely been on Washington’s ballot in 2020 as well.

I expected our Great Northwest neighbors to successfully pass a decriminalization initiative in 2022 or 2024 at the latest, I certainly didn’t expect for Washington to decriminalize drug possession in 2021 because of a state supreme court decision. OPB reported on the landmark case:

Five justices, led by Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud, said the state law was unconstitutional because it criminalized her passive, unknowing conduct, in violation of her due process protections. A letter carrier who unwittingly delivers a package of drugs, someone whose roommate hides drugs in a common living area, and someone who picks up the wrong bag at an airport could all be convicted under the law, she noted.

“Attaching the harsh penalties of felony conviction, lengthy imprisonment, stigma, and the many collateral consequences that accompany every felony drug conviction to entirely innocent and passive conduct exceeds the legislature’s powers,” Gordon McCloud wrote for the majority.

For more than six decades, the court had affirmed the Legislature’s power to criminalize drug possession without proof of a defendant’s intent to possess them. In a crucial decision from 1981, the court expressly noted that if lawmakers had wanted to require proof of intent, they would have made that an element of the crime.

Theshia Naidoo, managing director for the Drug Policy Alliance’s Department of Legal Affairs issued the following statement in a press release:

This decision is a perfect dovetail to the drug decriminalization bill moving through the legislature, which has already passed out of committee.  We urge legislators to immediately consider this bill and the benefits it would bring, including expanded health, harm reduction and recovery services, rather than re-enacting the harmful criminal penalties of the past that have resulted in extreme racial disparities, record drug overdoses, and countless lives ruined.
 
Oregon has already shown us in the most recent election that decriminalization is not only politically viable, but incredibly popular — as Measure 110, which decriminalized possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use and provided increased access to services — passed by a 17 point margin. Washington should follow suit and provide people with the services they need, rather than the burden of a criminal record they are forced to carry throughout their lives.

Hopefully, Washington lawmakers see the writing on the wall and keep drug decriminalization in place. It is clear that we will not end drug addiction issues by arresting and jailing people. People need education, healthcare, employment, and housing. Let’s invest in people, not more prisons. A sincere thanks to the Washington State Supreme Court. Legislators and Governor Jay Inslee should follow their example, science, and the evidence on the ground from Portugal. If lawmakers rollback this decision and bring back racist drug penalties, I have no doubt that the great people of the Great Northwest will speak loudly and clearly that it is time to just say no to the Drug War. Step by step, state by state.

Multnomah County DA Mike Schmidt Wisely Implements Oregon Decriminalization Law

Both District Attorney Mike Schmidt and the Oregon Measure 110 drug decriminalization law won overwhelmingly in Multnomah County, as residents throughout the Portland Metropolitan Area understand the need to move towards progressive “smart on crime” policies instead of regressive and ineffective “tough on crime” laws. Treating drug use and addiction as a health issue instead of a criminal matter, as Measure 110 calls for, is a foundational position of progressive criminal justice reforms, and it is great to see that Schmidt announced that his office will wisely implement Measure 110 early, even though the law doesn’t officially go into effect until February 1, 2021.

Multnomah County is joining both Clackamas and Deschutes County in saving limited law enforcement resources and taxpayer dollars, not to mention improving more lives, by promptly enacting Measure 110. From the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office:

“The passage of Ballot Measure 110 sends a clear message of strong public support that drug use should be treated as a public health matter rather than a criminal justice matter. Past punitive drug policies and laws resulted in over-policing of diverse communities, heavy reliance on correctional facilities and a failure to promote public safety and health. It’s time to move beyond these failed practices, expand access to treatment and focus our limited law enforcement resources to target high-level, commercial drug offenses,” said District Attorney Mike Schmidt.

Under Ballot Measure 110, people will no longer be arrested and jailed for the possession of small amounts of drugs. Instead, they will get the opportunity for a health assessment and be connected to treatment or recovery services, including housing assistance.

Because of the strong public support for Ballot Measure 110 and the need to conserve scarce law enforcement resources during a time of competing demands, the district attorney’s office will immediately change its practices relating to the handling of cases that contain a PCS charge.

I applaud District Attorney Mike Schmidt and every Oregon law enforcement official that is treating personal drug possession as a health issue instead of a criminal matter. The Drug War has not worked and it is time to implement a new, health-based approach. This is not a free-for-all to sell drugs as critics have nonsensically claimed and the sky will not fall, just as the sky remained above us when we legalized cannabis.

I urge everyone to support DA Schmidt and all elected officials who are following the will of the voters and turning the page on failed, harmful, and racist Drug War policies. I look forward to more Oregon prosecutors following this path and eventually more states following in Oregon’s footsteps in sweeping the War on Drugs into the dustbin of history. #NoMoreDrugWar

A summary of Multnomah County DA’s new practices can be obtained by here and a detailed explanation can be obtained by clicking here.