Oregon passed Ballot Measure 110, making it the first state to decriminalize the possession and use of small amounts of controlled substances including heroin, cocaine and methamphetamines. It will reduce penalties for possession of large amounts of such controlled substances.
Fifty-nine percent of voters approved the measure, while 41% opposed it, with 82% of results reported.
Recreational marijuana was legalized in the state in 2014.
The text of Measure 110 cited poor access to drug addiction treatment compared to other states. Backers of the measure argue that reduced arrests and incarceration will provide savings that can be used to make addiction treatment more widely available and free of charge. They also say drug crimes are disproportionately enforced against racial minorities.
The Oregon Catholic Conference adamantly opposed the measure, arguing that treatment and rehabilitation should be the focus of addiction recovery, without programs that will promote the use of illegal drugs.
The conference cited local communities and treatment groups that have expressed reservations about how the program would be applied. Other critics have said decriminalization of the drugs would cause more addiction by making drugs easier to acquire and by removing law enforcement and the courts from drug regulation, the New York Times reports.
Oregon voters also approved Ballot Measure 109, which will legalize psilocybin, a psychoactive compound found in some mushrooms, for mental health treatment. The initiative drew the support of 55% of voters.
Though the FDA has deemed psilocybin a potential breakthrough therapy for major depression, studies are inconclusive. The American Psychiatric Association and the Oregon Psychiatric Physicians Association both oppose the measure, saying proponents overstate the drug's usefulness in treating many phenomena including anxiety and addiction.
Voters in South Dakota approved Amendment A, which will legalize recreational use of marijuana for those 21 years and older. It will legalize possession or distribution of up to one ounce of the drug. It will also require the state legislature to pass laws providing for a medical marijuana program and the sale of hemp.
The measure, which passed 53%-47%, was opposed by the South Dakota bishops.
“Human beings are endowed by God with the gift of reason. Reason aids us in differentiating between right and wrong and is foundational for human freedom and personal responsibility,” they said. “Thus, we can understand that to directly intend to suppress our God-given rational faculties is gravely wrong.”
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The bishops warned that in Seattle and Denver, where marijuana businesses are legal, they are disproportionately located in poorer neighborhoods. According to one analysis, they said, every dollar raised in marijuana sales costs $4.50 in unwanted effects, primarily in healthcare and reduced workforce readiness.
In Montana, voters approved two measures that will legalize recreational marijuana in the state.
Constitutional Initiative 118 will change the state’s constitution to allow adults age 21 and up to purchase recreational marijuana, and Initiative 190 creates a framework to legalize and regulate marijuana use, creating a 20% tax on non-medical marijuana and allowing counties to ban dispensaries.
Both measures passed by roughly 57%-43% of the vote.
The bishops of Montana opposed the measure as “a threat to the flourishing of individual persons - particularly, the young, the poor, and those who struggle with either substance abuse or mental health challenges.”