Health and Medicine

How the 2020 Election Reshaped US Drug Policy

I consider this to be a far more important and far-reaching outcome of the 2020 election than the ouster of Trump by the neoliberals. 2020 was the year of the lumpen proletarian uprising in the streets and a Tet Offensive against the War on Drugs in the voting booth.

By Rachel Harrison, New York University

While November’s election revealed a divided country, American voters agreed on one issue: the need to reform the nation’s  drug policies. In every state where a measure to loosen restrictions on drugs was on the ballot, it won.

Four states—Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota—voted to legalize recreational cannabis, and Mississippi and South Dakota legalized its medical use. Both the District of Columbia and Oregon eased restrictions on psychedelic drugs: DC decriminalized psychedelic plants, including psilocybin—the psychedelic compound in “magic mushrooms”—and Oregon legalized the use of psilocybin in mental health treatment. (Research, including studies at NYU Grossman School of Medicine and Johns Hopkins University, shows that psychedelics may be a promising treatment for anxiety, depression, and substance use disorders.)

The most significant drug policy reform also came from Oregon, which became the first state to decriminalize small amounts of all drugs, including heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. Now, instead of facing arrest and prison time, a person found with drugs will be required to pay a $100 fine or undergo a health assessment with an addiction specialist—a policy that treats drug use as a public health issue, not a criminal justice issue. Using funds from taxes on cannabis sales, Oregon will also increase access to drug treatment services.


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