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Oregon Is on the Cusp of a Major Precedent in National Drug Reform: Decriminalizing Everything

Come November 3, Oregon residents will have a chance to approve the most far-reaching drug reform measure ever to make a state ballot when they vote on Measure 110, the Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act. While the initiative indeed expands drug treatment, what makes it really revolutionary is that it would also decriminalize the possession of personal use amounts of all drugs, from psychedelics to cocaine and methamphetamine, as well as heroin and other illicit opioids.

While successful marijuana legalization initiatives in a number of states—and possibly four more in November—are nothing to sneer at, even if pot were legalized nationwide, more than a million people are likely to be arrested on drug charges in a year. In 2018, the last year for which data is available, there were more than 1.65 million drug arrests; only 663,000 of them were for marijuana. Historically, just under nine out of ten drug arrests are for possession, which means that drug decriminalization nationwide would result in somewhere north of a million fewer drug arrests each year. That would be more than a million fraught encounters police avoided, every year.

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