Oregon Becomes The First State To Legalize Hard Drugs

Luca Boccalato, Staff Writer

The push to loosen drug laws in the name of social reform saw some significant victories in the 2020 election, as Oregon became the first state to decriminalize hard drugs such as Cocaine, Heroin and Lysergic acid diethylamide. Five additional states decriminalized marijuana for adults. 

Voters in Oregon made history by passing the first state laws in the U.S. to decriminalize small possession of hard drugs such as Heroin, Cocaine and LSD. This measure, backed by criminal justice reform groups,  aims to redirect users from incarceration into rehabilitation systems, where addicts can get the help they need to fully recover instead of serving years-long prison sentences. 

This reform models laws passed in Portugal at the start of the 21st Century. The country decriminalized all drugs in an attempt to stop the Heroin and Human Immunodeficiency Virus epidemics. Instead of sending addicts to prisons, they were placed in rehabilitation programs. Injection centers were also created for heroin addicts to have access to clean needles, instead of having to share or reuse used needles, one of the main reasons for the spread of HIV in the country. 

At first, many became skeptical that the policies would lead to an increase in drug use.  

In reality, the results included dramatic drops in problematic drug use, HIV rates, Hepatitis infections, deaths by overdose, drug-related crimes and incarceration. After 19 years of the policy’s implementation, these results have remained steady and the U.S. took note of that. 

As voters in New Jersey, Arizona, Montana, and South Dakota had major victories in the movement to legalize recreational cannabis, they have joined 11 other states and the District of Columbia in passing this legislation. The win puts New Jersey on the path to have the largest marijuana market on the east coast and one of the largest in the country. This will likely increase pressure on neighboring states, such as New York to possibly follow suit. However, as New Jersey has yet to establish rules, it remains unclear when the state will begin selling cannabis legally

These wins come at a huge surprise. Only four years ago, South Dakota for example voted against a bill that would legalize cannabis for medicinal purposes. Today, South Dakota now allows citizens to use substance recreationally. Similarly, Arizona, known for its very stringent drug laws and no exception rulings on addicts has now passed a law allowing the personal possession of up to one ounce of marijuana.  

It remains important to note that economic reasons are a major reason so many states are beginning to change their laws. After a year of calls for social justice reform, much of the change that people have been calling for is being seen put into action. With this new legislation, the possibilities of these progressive movements could potentially  turn the corner on the war on drugs in the U.S.