SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon became the first state to decriminalize hard drugs like heroin and methamphetamine and to legalize therapeutic use of psilocybin mushrooms on Tuesday, with two ballot measures passing by large margins.
Measure 110 would completely change how Oregon’s justice system treats those who are found with personal-use amounts of the hard drugs.
“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, which was behind the hard-drugs measure. “Measure 110 is arguably the biggest blow to the war on drugs to date.”
Instead of going to trial and facing possible jail time, a person would have the option of paying a $100 fine or attending new “addiction recovery centers.”
The centers would be funded by millions of dollars of tax revenue from the legalized, regulated marijuana industry in the state that was the country’s first to decriminalize marijuana possession.
“This is such a big step in moving to a health-based approach instead of criminal punishment, and we’re devoting significant new resources to help Oregonians who need it,” said Janie Gullickson, co-chief petitioner of Measure 110.
It received 59% yes votes and 41% no votes, with roughly 1.9 million votes counted, according to unofficial partial results from the secretary of state.
Among those in support of the Oregon measure were the Oregon Nurses Association and the Oregon chapter of the American College of Physicians.
Two dozen district attorneys said the measure “recklessly decriminalizes possession of the most dangerous types of drugs (and) will lead to an increase in acceptability of dangerous drugs.”
Three other district attorneys backed the measure, including the one in Oregon’s most populous county, which includes Portland.
Also passing was Ballot Measure 109 that allows the manufacture and controlled, therapeutic use of psilocybin, commonly called magic mushrooms. It received 56% yes votes and 44% no votes, with roughly 1.9 million votes counted.
Emilio Platt, 26, of Portland, said he voted “yes” on both drug-related state ballot measures.
Platt said he comes from a military family and has seen the damage that combat stress can do to a person.
“My entire family is military, so I know what the severe action that people see and the traumas they can come back with. So in all forms if you have some treatment option that’s newer and that can actually help people … I’m all for it,” he said.
War veterans with PTSD, terminally ill patients and others suffering from anxiety had voiced support.
Chad Kuske said he developed post-traumatic stress disorder after serving as a Navy SEAL for 18 years with 12 combat deployments,
“I was really suffering from stress, anxiety, depression. I was angry all the time,” Kuske said. Then he tried a psilocybin session.
“It’s not an overestimate by any means to say that it saved my life, because the path that I was taking would have eventually just led me to continued suffering, jail or death,” Kuske said.
The measure requires the Oregon Health Authority to allow licensed, regulated production and possession of psilocybin, exclusively for administration by licensed facilitators to clients. There would be a two-year development period.
Mara McGraw, a Portland woman who has terminal cancer, had also spoken out in favor of the measure.
“After chemo failed, I went to a pretty dark place,” McGraw told reporters. “I was feeling hopeless about treatment and about the future.”
Then she tried the psychedelic mushroom with a trained facilitator standing by.
“It was a very safe and nurturing experience for me. I immediately felt a release from the fear,” McGraw said.
The Oregon Psychiatric Physicians Association and the American Psychiatric Association argued against the proposal.
“We believe that science does not yet indicate that psilocybin is a safe medical treatment for mental health conditions,” the groups said.
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