“The new law allows adults over 21 to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and grow up to six plants. The measure creates a Division of Cannabis Control, which is responsible for setting up and regulating the adult-use cannabis market.”
“The main idea behind Measure 110 was that consuming politically disfavored intoxicants should not be treated as a crime. Since drug use itself violates no one’s rights, it is hard to argue with that premise.
Eliminating criminal penalties for drug possession, however, does not require tolerating conduct that offends, incommodes, or alarms people who have an equal right to use sidewalks, parks, and other taxpayer-funded facilities. That problem—which many major cities face, regardless of whether they routinely arrest people for drug possession—is distinct from drug use per se, just as disorderly alcohol-related conduct is distinct from drinking per se.”
“According to a 2016 systematic review, “evidence does not, on the whole, suggest improved outcomes related to compulsory treatment approaches, with some studies suggesting potential harms.” The authors conclude that “given the potential for human rights abuses within compulsory treatment settings, non-compulsory treatment modalities should be prioritized by policymakers seeking to reduce drug-related harms.”
One danger of jailing noncompliant drug users is that incarceration raises the risk of a fatal overdose because forced abstinence reduces tolerance. According to a 2023 study, that risk is “markedly elevated” among people recently freed from prison, especially during the first two weeks after release.”
“It is important to keep in mind that Oregon’s Measure 110 did nothing to address the supply of illegal drugs, which remain just as iffy and potentially deadly as they were before the initiative was approved. Decriminalization was limited to drug users, and it was based on the premise that people should not be arrested merely for consuming forbidden intoxicants. This distinction between drug users and drug suppliers is similar to the policy enacted during Prohibition, when bootleggers were treated as criminals but drinkers were not.
Measure 110 changed low-level drug possession from a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a maximum fine of $6,250, to a Class E violation, punishable by a $100 fine. Drug users who receive citations can avoid the fine by agreeing to undergo a “health assessment” that is supposed to “prioritize the self-identified needs of the client.” That assessment might result in a treatment referral, but participation is voluntary.
Despite the limited nature of Oregon’s reform, which was not designed to reduce the hazards posed by the highly variable and unpredictable composition of black-market drugs, Stephens thinks the fact that drug-related deaths continued to rise in Oregon shows that decriminalization has failed. “In 2019 there were 280 unintentional opioid overdose deaths in Oregon,” he writes. “In 2021 there were 745.”
Stephens neglects to mention that drug-related deaths rose nationwide during that period, from about 71,000 in 2019 to more than 107,000 in 2021. The number of deaths involving opioids rose from about 50,000 to about 81,000—a 62 percent increase.
To be sure, the increase in Oregon that Stephens notes was much larger. But how does it compare to trends in other jurisdictions that did not decriminalize drug use?
Between 2019 and 2021, Oregon’s age-adjusted opioid overdose death rate rose from 7.6 to 18.1 per 100,000 residents. California saw a similar increase: from 7.9 to 17.8. In Washington, the rate likewise nearly doubled, from 10.5 to 20.5. And even in 2021, Oregon’s rate was lower than the national rate (24.7) and much lower than the rates in states such as Connecticut (38.3), Delaware (48.1), Kentucky (44.8), Maine (42.4), Maryland (38.5), Tennessee (45.5), Vermont (37.4), and West Virginia (77.2). On its face, this does not look like evidence that decriminalization is responsible for Oregon’s continuing rise in opioid-related deaths.*
While Measure 110 does not seem to have caused an increase in drug-related deaths, it manifestly did not prevent that increase.”
“a heavy drug user who steals to support his habit is not immune from criminal penalties. It also means the government can justifiably regulate what drug users do in public, where their actions might offend, incommode, or alarm people who have an equal right to use sidewalks, parks, and other taxpayer-funded facilities. Although Stephens implies otherwise, eliminating criminal penalties for drug possession does not require tolerating public drug use, defecation, or blowjobs.”
“It has been more than two years since New York notionally legalized recreational marijuana, and things are not going quite as planned. “Although Gov. Kathy Hochul suggested last fall that more than 100 dispensaries would be operating by this summer,” The New York Times notes, “just 12 have opened since regulators issued the first licenses in November.”
Part of the problem, as you might expect, is red tape and bureaucratic ineptitude. But another barrier to letting licensed marijuana merchants compete with the unauthorized vendors who have conspicuously proliferated since the spring of 2021 is the state’s affirmative action program for victims of pot prohibition.
New York, like several other states that have legalized marijuana, mandated preferences for license applicants who suffered as a result of the crusade against cannabis. While that idea has a pleasing symmetry, it never made much sense as a way of making up for the harm inflicted by cannabis criminalization. And in practice, executing the plan has drastically limited the legal marijuana supply, making it much harder to achieve the state’s avowed goal of displacing the black market.
To be clear: I don’t think people with marijuana convictions should be excluded from participating in the newly legal market, a policy that would add insult to injury. But that does not mean they should have a legal advantage over cannabis entrepreneurs who were never arrested but might be better qualified.”
“New York reserved the first batch of up to 175 retail licenses mainly for people with marijuana-related criminal records or their relatives. Those applicants needed to show they had experience running a “profitable” legal business in the state. Nonprofit organizations with “a history of serving current or formerly incarcerated individuals” also were eligible, provided they had “at least five full time employees,” “at least one justice involved board member,” and a track record of operating “a social enterprise that had net assets or profit for at least two years.” Another requirement was demonstrating “a significant presence in New York State,” which led to litigation and a temporary injunction against issuing retail licenses in five areas of the state.
Satisfying the state’s criteria required “a lot of documentation,” Bloomberg CityLab reporter Amelia Pollard noted last fall, which gave New York’s Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) “a mound of paperwork to wade through.” As of November, the OCM had received more than 900 applications from would-be marijuana retailers. On November 20, it announced that it had granted 36 “provisional conditional adult-use retail dispensary licenses” to individuals and organizations.”
“The approved retailers are far outnumbered by unauthorized vendors, many of whom openly sell marijuana from storefronts, trucks, and tables, unencumbered by the state’s licensing requirements, regulations, and taxes. Yelp’s list of the “best recreational marijuana dispensaries” in New York City includes 90 outlets, only a few of which are blessed by the OCM.”
“Legalization linked to fewer suicides, traffic fatalities, and opioid deaths. A new paper on the public health effects of legalizing marijuana finds “little credible evidence to suggest that [medical marijuana] legalization promotes marijuana use among teenagers” and “convincing evidence that young adults consume less alcohol when medical marijuana is legalized.””
“Overall, liberalizing prostitution laws was linked to a significant decrease in rape rates, while prohibition was linked to a significant increase—but the magnitude of these two shifts was far from equal. Rather, “the magnitude of prohibiting commercial sex is about four times as large as that of liberalizing it,” write Gao and Petrova.
The average rape rate in the sample countries was nine rapes per 100,000 people. Countries that liberalized prostitution laws saw a decrease of approximately three rapes per 100,000 people, relative to countries that did not change their prostitution laws. Meanwhile, countries that banned or further criminalized prostitution saw an increase of around 11 rapes per 100,000 people, relative to the control countries.”
“Gao and Petrova do offer the caveat that “changes in prostitution laws might not be random. It is possible that a country changes the laws as part of a general program to improve women’s social status and is thus instituting other policies that may affect rape rates,” and although they attempted to control for this in various ways, these techniques “may not fully address the possible nonrandomness of prostitution laws.””
“their findings are in line with a spate of previous research linking liberalized sex work laws to decreases in sexual violence. For instance, a 2018 study showed that rapes in Rhode Island decreased when the state temporarily decriminalized indoor prostitution. A 2017 study found fewer sexual assaults after legal street prostitution zones were opened in 25 Dutch cities. Another 2017 study linked the launch of Craigslist “erotic services” ads in various U.S. cities to decreases in female homicide rates.”
“The initiative that legalized magic mushroom businesses allows cities and counties to ban them via ballot initiative. Local governments also retain the power to craft “time, place, and manner” regulations over psilocybin businesses.
This past election, 25 of Oregon’s 36 counties voted to ban psilocybin businesses, including four that voted to legalize psilocybin in 2020. Only two counties that put the questions to voters, Deschutes and Jackson counties, kept these businesses legal.
And this week, those two counties will consider new land use regulations that could severely restrict where newly legal “psilocybin service centers” can set up shop.”
“When marijuana was legalized in Oregon, it went through a similar journey. Voters approved a relatively liberal legalization ballot initiative. The legislature followed this up with more constricting regulations. Then a long list of local governments opted not to allow marijuana businesses. Those that did often imposed zoning regulations that made a lot of prime real estate off-limits to the new industry.
Given that history, it’s perhaps unsurprising that local governments would want to tightly regulate legalized psychedelics facilities—given how novel and new they are.
Subjecting new industries to heavy regulation is nevertheless a great way to strangle them in the crib. A business as weird as legalized shrooms requires a lot of experimentation. And we shouldn’t trust county commissions to design the perfect trip.”
“Voters on Tuesday approved the legalization of recreational marijuana in Maryland and Missouri while rejecting similar measures in Arkansas, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Meanwhile, voters in five Texas cities passed ballot measures that bar local police from issuing citations or making arrests for low-level marijuana possession. But the most striking election result for drug policy reformers looking beyond the ongoing collapse of marijuana prohibition happened in Colorado, where a broad psychedelic decriminalization measure is winning by two points with 80 percent of votes counted.
Prior to yesterday’s elections, 37 states had approved marijuana for medical purposes, and 19 of them also had legalized recreational use. The Maryland and Missouri results raise the latter number to 21.”
“Colorado voters this week passed the broadest reform of psychedelic drug policy ever approved in the United States. With 88 percent of ballots counted as of Wednesday night, 51 percent of voters had said yes to Proposition 122, which decriminalizes noncommercial activities related to the use of “natural medicine” by adults 21 or older. That term covers five psychedelics found in plants or fungi, some or all of which will eventually be available at state-licensed “healing centers.””
“The initiative defines “natural medicine” to include psilocybin, psilocyn (another psychoactive component of “magic mushrooms”), dimethyltryptamine (DMT, the active ingredient in ayahuasca), ibogaine (a psychedelic derived from the root bark of the iboga tree), and mescaline (the active ingredient in peyote). The covered activities include “growing, cultivating, or processing plants or fungi capable of producing natural medicine for personal use.” The initiative also eliminates civil and criminal penalties for possessing, storing, using, transporting, or obtaining the listed psychedelics or distributing them to adults 21 or older “without remuneration.””
“The initiative notes that “natural medicines have been used safely for millennia by cultures for healing.” It adds that “an extensive and growing body of research” supports “the efficacy of natural medicines combined with psychotherapy as treatment for depression, anxiety, substance use disorders, end-of-life distress, and other conditions.” But like Oregon’s initiative, Proposition 122 does not require that clients of psychedelic centers have any particular medical or psychiatric diagnosis.”