Health and Medicine

Oregon Decriminalized All Drugs to Stop Overdoses. Will it Work?

In 1973, Oregon became the first state to decriminalize marijuana use, setting in motion a movement that has unraveled much of the disastrous U.S. drug war—with far-reaching consequences.

Today, Oregon is once again at the vanguard of reform: In February, it enacted Measure 110, a law ending prison and jail sentences for all types of drug use and possession, whether it be cocaine, meth, heroin, or psychedelics.

In 2019, before this new law was passed in a statewide referendum, more than 4,000 people were convicted of drug possession in Oregon, and many more cut deals with prosecutors, allowing them to avoid a conviction in exchange for supervised probation and some rehab.

With the new law, not only does possession bring nothing more than a $100 ticket, defendants can get the fine dismissed if they place just one phone call to a drug abuse assessment hotline. So far, only 29 people ticketed for possession have placed that call, according to the nonprofit that runs the hotline.


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