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The 2020 election proved once again that the American people want access to marijuana. The drug is now either legal recreationally, legal medicinally, or decriminalized in all but seven states.
And this Election Day, voters in Washington, D.C., and Oregon said that they are ready to move on from pot and further dismantle the War on Drugs. The votes this year could portend big changes in other states in the years ahead.
By a 59%-41% landslide, Oregon voters approved a first-in-the-nation ballot initiative to decriminalize the non-commercial possession of controlled substances. The move reduces the maximum penalty for possessing small amounts of controlled substances to a $100 fine.
The initiative covers drugs like cocaine, heroin, oxycodone, and methamphetamine. People who face the $100 fine can avoid it by participating in a "health assessment." The new law, which takes effect on February 1, also uses sales tax funds from recreational marijuana sales to fund rehabilitation and other addiction treatment options.
Selling and manufacturing these drugs is still illegal and still carries stiff penalties for a conviction. It is also worth remembering that these substances, as well as marijuana, remain illegal under federal law. Driving under the influence of these substances is still against the law in Oregon as well.
But there is no getting around the historic nature of this vote. In a study on the potential effects of the new law, the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission estimates that convictions for possession of a control substance will decrease by more than 90%. This will ease prison crowding and allow people struggling with addiction to get their lives back on track without having to worry about a tarnished criminal record.
Not ready to stop there, Oregon voters, by a 56%-44% margin, also chose to be the first state in the nation to legalize psilocybin, better known as magic mushrooms, psychedelic mushrooms, or simply "shrooms."
The vote sets up a program that will allow the use of shrooms in a supervised, therapeutic setting. A husband-and-wife pair of psychotherapists led the effort, arguing that shrooms are useful for some people struggling with addiction, depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.
In Washington, D.C., voters elected to decriminalize possession of magic mushrooms by a 76%-24% margin.
Before Oregonians (and potential visitors) get too excited about this vote, this does not mean that shrooms are on the same legal footing as marijuana. The Oregon Health Authority has two years to develop a regulatory framework for the supervised use of psilocybin by approved patients. Manufacturing and selling the substance is still illegal under Oregon law. However, the results of the decriminalization initiative will reduce the penalties for possession.