Blog Post

Monumental Night for Drug Policy Reform

Kassandra Frederique

Post updated November 6, 2020.

I hope you’ll take a few moments to celebrate the silver lining: last night was a landslide victory for drug policy reform.

In a historic, paradigm-shifting win and arguably the biggest blow to the war on drugs to date, Oregon voters passed Measure 110, the nation’s first all-drug decriminalization measure. This confirms a substantial shift in public support in favor of treating drug use with health services rather than with criminalization. Check out our work on this groundbreaking campaign featured in the Associated Press and the New York Times.

Drug possession is the most arrested offense in the United States, with one arrest every 23 seconds. Last night, Oregon showed the world that a more humane, compassionate approach is possible. Measure 110 will serve as a model and starting point for states across the country to decriminalize drug use.

Marijuana reform also won big. Voters in New Jersey, Montana and South Dakota passed measures to legalize marijuana for adult use. DPA also congratulates Arizona, where voters approved a similar measure, creating a total 15 states plus Washington D.C. that have legalized marijuana. It was also a historic year for medical marijuana, with victories in Mississippi and South Dakota.

All across the country, in liberal states and conservative ones, people made their voices heard. And they are saying loud and clear that it is time to end the drug war. 

This is our moment and we couldn’t have gotten here without your focused support. Now, we can and must continue to make big, bold moves. Our work will not be done until we end all drug possession arrests and other coercive responses, repair the damage done by expunging drug arrest records, and reinvest in communities harmed by racially targeted policing.

Included below are the full results of the ballot initiatives supported by Drug Policy Action, the advocacy and political arm of the Drug Policy Alliance. 

Thank you again for making all this incredible progress possible. 
With gratitude,
Kassandra Frederique
Executive Director
Drug Policy Alliance
P.S. We know that our fight for justice will not always be this joyous and victorious. We are energized and emboldened by these victories, but we know there are still challenges ahead. Become an official DPA member today. We need your support to help harness this momentum and end the drug war once and for all.

Oregon Decriminalizes All Drugs

We won! Oregon is now the first state to decriminalize drug possession, and has expanded access to addiction services.

In a historic victory, Oregon voters approved Measure 110, the nation’s first all-drug decriminalization measure. It is a landmark declaration that the time has come to stop criminalizing people for drug use. The initiative was spearheaded by Drug Policy Action, the advocacy and political arm of Drug Policy Alliance.

Measure 110 shifts the focus where it belongs—on people and public health—and removes one of the most common justifications for law enforcement to harass, arrest, prosecute, incarcerate, and deport people. As we saw with the domino effect of marijuana legalization, we expect this victory to inspire other states to enact their own drug decriminalization policies that prioritize health over punishment.

In addition to decriminalizing possession of all drugs for personal use, Measure 110 will greatly expand access to evidence-informed drug treatment, peer support, housing, and harm reduction services, without raising taxes. Services will be funded through excess marijuana tax revenue and savings from no longer arresting, incarcerating, and prosecuting people for drug possession. 

According to a report by the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission released by the Oregon Secretary of State, passage of this measure will reduce drug possession convictions of Black and Indigenous Oregonians by 94%. The impact on disparities could be even more significant, the report notes, stating “other disparities can exist at different stages of the criminal justice process, including inequities in police stops, jail bookings, bail, pretrial detention, prosecutorial decisions, and others.” 

This Oregon victory demonstrates that decriminalization is politically viable, spurring potential efforts in other states, including California, Vermont, and Washington, and even in Congress. 

Marijuana Wins Big in 5 States

Marijuana initiatives won in 5 states: Arizona, New Jersey, Mississippi, Montana, and South Dakota.

New Jersey

New Jersey voters approved Public Question 1 to legalize the possession, regulation, and sale of marijuana for adults. Now that the voters have spoken, it's imperative that the legislature immediately prioritize passing and implementing legislation to repair the harms of prohibition and equitably regulate marijuana. 

The Drug Policy Alliance has worked for two decades toward marijuana legalization and broader drug policy reform in New Jersey, and our advocacy and political arm, Drug Policy Action, was proud to partner on this campaign.

Nearly 33,000 people were arrested in New Jersey for marijuana possession in 2018, making it one of the top five states for marijuana arrests. Each year, the state wastes over $143 million arresting people on marijuana related charges.

Legalizing marijuana will have a profound impact on stopping these senseless, racially-biased arrests and addressing the senseless consequences of prohibition. It will also create job opportunities and generate hundreds of millions of dollars for reinvestment into our communities.

Passage of Public Question 1 is a vital step forward in the fight to legalize marijuana and repair the harms of prohibition in New Jersey. 


Mississippi voters approved Initiative 65 to legalize medical marijuana. Initiative 65 will create a safe and legal process for patients with debilitating conditions to obtain medical marijuana from licensed and regulated treatment centers. 

Drug Policy Action, our advocacy and political arm, has worked on this campaign for several years, partnering with our local allies at every step of the way—from drafting the amendment, to signature gathering, and getting it across the finish line. 

Suffering patients who can benefit from medical marijuana will finally be able to get the relief they deserve. Medical marijuana will be available to people with medical conditions such as cancer, epilepsy, and ALS, under the care of physicians. 

Passage of Initiative 65 is a historic win for patients as well as an important step toward marijuana law reform in the South, one of the U.S. regions that has been most impacted by the drug war. 

South Dakota

South Dakota voters approved Amendment A to legalize and tax marijuana for adults and Measure 26 to create safe, regulated, and legal access to medical marijuana for patients. 

Legalizing medical and adult-use marijuana is an incredible step toward justice in South Dakota and it’s exciting to see this historic progress in a more conservative, Midwestern state. 

Criminalizing marijuana has led to thousands of needless arrests and is ruining lives. In fact, South Dakota has the highest arrest rate for marijuana possession of any state, disproportionately affecting Black, Native, and Latinx people.

Passage of Amendment A and Measure 26 will end these arrests, stop wasting law enforcement resources on arresting people for marijuana, generate millions in revenue from legalizing and taxing marijuana for adults, and allow veterans and others to safely access medical marijuana.


Montana voters approved CI-118 and I-190 to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana for adults. In addition to legalizing marijuana, these measures will expand legal access for veterans and other people who need marijuana for medical reasons, direct new revenue to important state services and programs, and create a responsibly-regulated system that protects consumers. 

Passage of CI-118 and I-190 will stop senseless, racially-biased arrests and address the disastrous consequences of prohibition by providing for resentencing or expungement of past marijuana related convictions. It will also create job opportunities and generate hundreds of millions of dollars for reinvestment into local communities.


We also congratulate Arizona on their marijuana legalization victory! Arizona was the only state where possession of any amount of marijuana was a felony. This is an important victory as DPA and our allies work to repair the harms of unfairly harsh criminal consequences for marijuana possession and sales.