Health Highlights, Nov. 5, 2020
Below are newsworthy items compiled by the HealthDay staff:
Oregon Decriminalizes Possession of Hard Drugs
Oregon voters have passed a measure making the state the first to decriminalize possession of hard drugs such as heroin, methamphetamine, LSD and oxycodone.
The measure completely changes how Oregon's justice system treats those who are found with personal-use amounts of hard drugs, the Associated Press reported.
Under Measure 110, they won't face criminal charges. Instead, they can choose to pay a $100 fine or go to an addiction recovery center, the AP reported.
The measure takes effect in early December, but the changes in penalties won't be implemented until Feb. 1. The addiction recovery centers will be funded by tax revenue from the state's legalized marijuana industry.
Making criminals out of drug users -- locking them up and burdening them with criminal records that make it hard to find employment and housing -- was not working, experts said.
About 3,700 fewer Oregonians per year will be convicted of felony or misdemeanor possession of controlled substances under the new measure, according to estimates by the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission.
The measure will also likely lead to significant reductions in racial and ethnic disparities in both convictions and arrests, the commission added.
"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," Janie Gullickson, co-chief petitioner of Measure 110, told the AP.
The measure has been approved by 59% of roughly 2 million votes counted so far, according to the Oregon secretary of state's office.
In 1973, Oregon became the first state to decriminalize marijuana possession, the AP reported.
More States Vote to Legalize Recreational Marijuana
Ballot measures to legalize recreational marijuana in Arizona and New Jersey, and both recreational and medical use in South Dakota, are on their way to voter approval, CNN projected Wednesday.
The initiatives are only the first step in the process, John Hudak, deputy director at the Brookings Institution, where he specializes in state and federal marijuana policy, told CNN.
After voters approve the measures, the state legislatures usually will need to set up regulations in each state. Right now, 11 states have fully legalized marijuana, CNN noted.
In New Jersey, medical use already is legal. The effort to defeat the latest measure was stalled because of the pandemic, according to Gregg Edwards, executive director of Don't Let NJ Go to Pot, CNN reported.
"Now cannabis is going to appear in the New Jersey Constitution alongside the freedom to associate," he told CNN. "And once it's in the Constitution, the likelihood of it coming out is slim or next to none."
In South Dakota, two measures were on the ballot -- one for medical marijuana and the other for recreational use -- according to CNN.
Arizona's law will allow adults aged 21 and older to possess, consume or transfer up to 1 ounce of cannabis and create a regulatory system for the drug's cultivation and sale. A similar provision failed in 2016, CNN reported.
Despite these victories, advocates of legal marijuana say the battle isn't over.
Matthew Schweich, of the Marijuana Policy Project, hopes these wins will be a tipping point.
"The reason there's a conversation in Congress is because of all of the victories that have already occurred at the state level," Schweich told CNN.
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