This state could vote to decriminalize all drugs this November

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More radical change to drug policy could be coming to Oregon after the November federal election.

The Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act, which would decriminalize drugs in the state, qualified for the ballot after it amassed a total of 116,622 valid signatures of support, per the Oregon Secretary of State.

The Act would downgrade possession of most drugs from a crime to a violation. For example, a person found guilty of being in possession of a Schedule I, II, or III drug, a Class A misdemeanor, can face one year in jail and a US$6,250 fine. Under the act, the same offence would be reclassified as a Class E violation, resulting in a fine of $100 or a completed health assessment.

Possession of a Schedule IV drug, formerly punishable by 30 days in jail and a $1,250 fine, would also convert to a Class E violation, leading to a $100 fine or health assessment.

“Oregonians have always been early adopters of drug policies that shift the emphasis towards health and away from punishment,” managing director of criminal justice law and policy at Drug Policy Action  Theshia Naidoo told Talking Drugs in March.  “The idea behind this groundbreaking effort is simple: people suffering from addiction need help, not criminal punishments. Instead of arresting and jailing people for using drugs, the measure would fund a range of services to help people get their lives back on track.”

Although detractors such as Washington County District Attorney Kevin Barton say the measure will increase drug use and crime, The Act is supported by noted organizations such as the ACLU National and Oregon chapters, Human Rights Watch, the American College of Physicians, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees of Oregon.

In addition to decriminalization, the act would also funnel tax revenue from the sale of legal cannabis in the state’s Oregon Marijuana Account towards substance abuse treatment programs.

The U.S. federal election is set to take place on November 3.

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