Come November 3, Oregon residents will have a chance to approve the most far-reaching drug reform measure ever to make a state ballot when they vote on Measure 110, the Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act. While the initiative indeed expands drug treatment, what makes it really revolutionary is that it would also decriminalize the possession of personal use amounts of all drugs, from psychedelics to cocaine and methamphetamine, as well as heroin and other illicit opioids.
Marijuana is on the ballot in South Dakota in November this year. This is a state that has the dubious distinction of being the only one to twice defeat a medical marijuana initiative. And it has another dubious distinction: It’s the only state where people get prosecuted for having marijuana show up on a drug test.
In the mass protests over out-of-control and racially biased law enforcement ignited by the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, Floyd’s name isn’t the only one being chanted by the crowds. There’s also Ahmaud Arbery, the Georgia jogger gunned down by white vigilantes. There’s Rayshard Brooks, the Atlanta man who was shot and killed by police after he fell asleep in his car in a Wendy’s drive-through lane and got into a tussle with the officers when they tried to arrest him.
With mass protests over the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin morphing into demands to grapple with racism and to confront a police culture where brutality is all too common, and with the anguished words of Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, echoing through the Capitol, congressional Democrats on June 8 rolled out their first effort to address the national uprising, the Justice in Policing Act of 2020.
As protests erupted across the country after the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, a dozen progressive Democratic House members filed a resolution May 29 condemning police brutality not only in the case of Floyd but also in the case of Breonna Taylor, the black 26-year-old Louisville EMT who was gunned down in her own home by cops on a misbegotten no-knock drug raid in March.
The novel coronavirus pandemic is not just striking down Americans by the tens of thousands and jobs by the tens of millions; it is also wreaking havoc with marijuana and other drug-related voter initiative campaigns this year. It’s damnably hard to gather thousands of voter signatures when there aren’t any mass gatherings and the public is locked inside.
Arresting and imprisoning people for drug offenses is a luxury America’s biggest cities are finding they can no longer afford as they struggle with the coronavirus pandemic. Now, citing the need for social distancing measures, several of them are leading the way in jettisoning the long-entrenched but totally discretionary policing and prosecutorial practice.
America shows signs of emerging from the century-long shadow of drug prohibition, with marijuana leading the way and a psychedelic decriminalization movement rapidly gaining steam. It also seems as if the mass incarceration fever driven by the war on drugs has finally broken, although tens if not hundreds of thousands remain behind bars on drug charges.
The nation’s most venerable marijuana legalization group, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), has just issued its 2020 Gubernatorial Scorecard grading the nation’s governors on their level of support for ending marijuana prohibition. Thanks to NORML, we can now identify those chief executives whose stances on cannabis remain mired in the last century.
Last year wasn’t a great one for advancing marijuana legalization at the state level. Despite high hopes for New Jersey and New York, state legislatures in Trenton and Albany couldn’t quite get their acts together, and promising efforts petered out. Illinois was the only state to approve marijuana legalization in 2019.