There was a lot of election news last month, so you might not have noticed that Oregon voted on Nov. 3 to decriminalize all drugs. Heroin, meth, cocaine, MDMA and other narcotics are still against the law, as is selling them. But possession of small amounts of drugs will now be a civil rather than criminal offense, punished with a fine or court-mandated drug treatment – not jail time.

“Oregon’s move is radical for the United States, but several European countries have decriminalized drugs to some extent,” write drug policy experts Scott Atkins and Clayton Mosher. They look at evidence from Portugal, Switzerland and U.S. states that legalized marijuana to explain why Oregonians are abandoning one front in America’s expensive, racially disparate and ineffective war on drugs.

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Catesby Holmes

International Editor and Politics Editor

According to Oregon law, possessing a small amount of drugs for personal consumption is now a civil – rather than criminal – offense. Peter Dazeley via Getty

Oregon just decriminalized all drugs – here’s why voters passed this groundbreaking reform

Scott Akins, Oregon State University; Clayton Mosher, Washington State University

Possessing heroin, cocaine, meth and other drugs for personal use is no longer a criminal offense in Oregon. The idea is to get people with problem drug use help, not punishment.

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