Tonight, in a historic victory, Oregon voters approved Measure 110, the nation’s first all-drug decriminalization measure. This win represents a substantial shift in public perception and support in favor of treating drug use as a matter of public health, best met with access to treatment and other health services, rather than criminalization. The initiative was spearheaded by Drug Policy Action, the advocacy and political arm of Drug Policy Alliance, the nation’s preeminent drug policy reform organization, which also backed prior drug policy wins in Oregon, including the YES on 91 campaign in 2014 that legalized marijuana.
“Today’s victory is a landmark declaration that the time has come to stop criminalizing people for drug use,” said Kassandra Frederique, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Measure 110 is arguably the biggest blow to the war on drugs to date. 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 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 (over $45 million) and savings from no longer arresting, incarcerating, and prosecuting people for drug possession. Based on current projections, the excess marijuana tax revenue alone should result in over $100 million in funding for services in the first year and up to $129 million by 2027.
DPA has been actively working on an implementation plan, which will involve multiple coalition partners who have supported the campaign, to ensure that the intent and will of the voters are protected and furthered after the measure takes effect.
According to a report by the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission released by the Oregon Secretary of State’s office, passage of this measure will result in a 95% decrease in racial disparities in drug arrests. The actual impact on disparities could be even more dramatic, 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.”
The fundamental elements of the measure are based on successful models used in other parts of the United States and around the world--including Portugal and Switzerland, but tailored specifically to meet the needs of Oregonians. DPA worked in consultation with many Oregonians involved in public health, treatment, equity, economics, criminal justice, civil liberties, and more to craft the measure.
The initiative was supported by a broad spectrum of local, state and national groups, including the ACLU, Human Rights Watch, AFSCME of Oregon, NAACP of Portland/Eugene Springfield, Oregon Academy of Family Physicians, The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, Oregon Nurses Association, Harm Reduction Coalition, YWCA of Greater Portland, Oregon Chapter of the American College of Physicians, Law Enforcement Action Partnership, Coalition of Communities of Color, Oregon School Psychologists' Association, SEIU Local 49 & 503, Oregon AFL-CIO, and over 120 others.
Related Federal & State Advocacy
The Oregon victory demonstrates that decriminalization is politically viable, invigorating efforts already underway in other states, including California, Vermont, and Washington, and even in Congress, where DPA has released a federal framework for drug decriminalization. The effort, outlined in a proposal, Dismantling the Federal Drug War: A Comprehensive Drug Decriminalization Framework, unveiled by the organization in August 2020, provides a roadmap for policymakers to effectively end the criminalization of people who use drugs and begin repairing the harm drug law enforcement has caused, particularly in communities of color.
“While drug decriminalization cannot fully repair our broken and oppressive criminal legal system or the harms of an unregulated drug market, shifting from absolute prohibition to drug decriminalization is a monumental step forward in this fight. It clears the path toward treating drug use as a health issue, restores individual liberty, removes one of the biggest underpinnings for police abuse, and substantially reduces government waste,” Frederique added.
The Drug Policy Alliance has long advocated for drug decriminalization as a critical first step in ending the drug war, including in its 2017 report, It’s Time for the U.S. to Decriminalize Drug Use and Possession. The report is a result of a comprehensive review of public health and criminology literature, an analysis of drug policies in the U.S. and abroad, and input from experts in the fields of drug policy and criminal justice.