Blog Post

Drug Policy Wins Big!

Kassandra Frederique

It’s been a monumental night for drug policy reform. In arguably the biggest blow to the drug war to date, Oregon has become the first state in the nation to decriminalize all drugs. And it was a historic night for marijuana reform too, with New Jersey and Arizona legalizing marijuana for adult use and Mississippi and South Dakota legalizing medical marijuana. 

In Montana and South Dakota, the results have not yet been called for separate measures which would legalize adult use in the state. But we're hopeful that when every vote is counted we will prevail. 

We thank supporters like you for making all this incredible progress possible. Read on for the full results so far. 

Oregon Decriminalizes All Drugs

In an unprecedented victory, Oregon voters approved Measure 110, becoming the first state in the nation to decriminalize the personal use and possession of all drugs while expanding access to addiction and other health services. 

This groundbreaking initiative imagines a better way forward – instead of arresting and jailing people for drugs, it will offer help to those who need and want it.

DPA has long advocated for all drug decriminalization as a critical step to ending the drug war. Our advocacy and political arm, Drug Policy Action, spearheaded this historic campaign from funding and drafting the measure to qualifying it for the ballot and getting it over the finish line. 

Passage of Measure 110 is a landmark declaration that the time has come to stop criminalizing people for drug use. It 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 follow suit and enact their own decriminalization policies that prioritize health over punishment.

This is a monumental step away from criminalization toward a humane and health-based approach. It’s time to stop arresting and incarcerating people who use drugs and begin to repair the harm that drug law enforcement has caused to our communities. 

More people are arrested for drug possession than any other offense in the United States, with one person arrested every 23 seconds. Disproportionately, these are Black, Latinx, Indigenous and low-income people, making it the leading cause of contact between these communities and law enforcement. As we reckon with racism and policing, policies like Measure 110 that remove opportunities for arrests and incarceration for drug possession and replace them with access to health services are the way we begin to interrogate the role of policing in our society.

This measure will have a profound impact. We hope this victory inspires you to fight for what your communities deserve. Because we are inspired, and we are ready to build with you to decriminalize drugs in every state across the country. 

Marijuana Wins Big in More States

With the support of Drug Policy Action, the political arm of the Drug Policy Alliance, voters in New Jersey passed a measure to legalize marijuana for adult use. DPA also congratulates Arizona, where voters also approved a similar measure, creating a total 13 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. 

These victories will go a long way to undoing the harms of marijuana prohibition. In New Jersey, the state wastes over $143 million a year arresting over 32,000 people on marijuana-related charges, the vast majority just for simple possession. 

Meanwhile, Mississippi has become one of the few states in the Deep South to legalize medical marijuana. 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, to getting it across the finish line. Suffering patients who can benefit from medical marijuana will finally be able to get the relief they deserve. 

Voters in South Dakota also passed a medical marijuana measure to create safe, regulated, and legal access to medical marijuana for patients. 

Keep the Momentum Going

Public opinion polls show 67% of Americans support marijuana legalization, including 55% of Republicans. Yet the continued enforcement of marijuana prohibition laws is responsible for more than 500,000 arrests in the United States every year, disproportionately impacting Black, Latinx, and Indigenous people. These victories are crucial to reforming marijuana laws in other states and at the federal level. They demonstrate that reform is tenable outside the East and West Coasts, including in some of the regions hardest hit by the drug war, like the South and Midwest.

But we need to go beyond marijuana law reform. Our country still arrests one person every 23 seconds for drug possession. Our work will not be done until we end all drug possession arrests, repair the damage done by expunging drug arrest records, and reinvest in communities harmed by racially targeted policing.

Friend, you’ve helped us change history this election cycle. The drug war is a public health crisis, a tool of racial oppression and a wasteful misuse of government resources. And it’s clear that more and more Americans like you are demanding reform. But there is still so much more to do and we need your support. Please make a donation to the Drug Policy Alliance today. We must stay focused on ending this drug war once and for all. Donate now.

Kassandra Frederique is Executive Director at Drug Policy Alliance.