As many states push to relax drug laws nationwide, yesterday four states voted to legalize marijuana, and Oregan became the first state to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of hard drugs.
Voters in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota passed state ballot measures to legalize recreational cannabis use and to undo the harms of cannabis criminalization.
The four states join the District of Columbia and 11 other states that have already legalized the use of cannabis for adults, which remains illegal at the federal level in the US. This win puts New Jersey in the lead to have the largest weed market on the east coast and one of the largest in the US. It also puts pressure on neighboring states like New York to follow suit, but first New Jersey has to establish rules before the weed businesses open, so it’s not clear when the new industry will begin.
Yesterday, Oregon voters made history by passing the first state law in the US to decriminalize possession of hard drugs, which included heroin, cocaine, and LSD. The measure is backed by a criminal justice reform group and is aimed at diverting people from jails and prisons by treating possession as a citation and creating access to treatment and recovery.
In Arizona, their measure legalized possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for adults and sets up a licensing system for retail sales that start in March. The state already has medical-marijuana dispensaries in operation. In Montana, they’re calling for sales to begin in January 2022.
In South Dakota voters approved proposals to legalize both medical and recreational marijuana, a major difference from four years ago after the state rejected the medical pot measure. After the polls closed, early results appeared to show wide margins in favor of legalization. In Mississippi, a medical cannabis measure also passed.
The cannabis measures are also aimed at addressing the consequences of the war on drugs, and laws that have directly targeted Black and brown people for arrests and jail time.
In Arizona, their law allows people with weed convictions to petition courts to have their records cleared.
The drug initiative in Oregon will allow people who are arrested with small amounts of hard drugs to avoid going to trial and possible jail time by paying a $100 fine and attending an addiction recovery program. The revenue from legalized marijuana will go towards funding treatment centers which were approved in Oregon several years ago.
Kassandra Frederique, the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which backed the measure, said, “Today’s victory is a landmark declaration that the time has come to stop criminalizing people for drug use.”
Oregon voters also approved a measure making it the first state to legalize the therapeutic use of psychedelic mushrooms.