The march to decriminalize drugs moved further across the nation on Tuesday (Nov. 3) despite continued federal prohibition, according to The New York Times.
Oregon became the first state to decriminalize small amounts of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and other drugs. And in New Jersey and Arizona voters decisively passed laws legalizing recreational marijuana. Cannabis is now legal across a large bloc of states in the West — from Washington down to the Mexican border — and well beyond.
Cannabis was also on the ballot in Montana, Mississippi and South Dakota. If all of the marijuana measures pass, marijuana will be legal for medical use in three dozen states and recreational use will be allowed in 15.
The Oregon measure would make possession of small amounts of what have long been considered harder drugs a violation, similar to a traffic ticket, and no longer punishable by jail time. The law would also fund drug addiction treatment from marijuana sales taxes.
“This is incredible,” said Kassandra Frederique, executive director of the advocacy group Drug Policy Alliance. “This is like taking a sledgehammer to the cornerstone of the drug war.”
Possession of larger amounts could result in misdemeanor charges and some cases that rise to what is considered a commercial level could still be charged as felonies.
Frederique said passage of the measure showed that voters were eager for a new approach on drug policy to handle it as a health issue and prioritize treatment. She said she expected other states to follow suit, mentioning efforts in states such as California, Vermont and Washington.
Separately, Oregon voters also legalized psilocybin, known as magic mushrooms, for people age 21 and older. Proponents said the move would allow the drug to be used to treat depression, anxiety and other conditions.
Even in a year when the number of citizen initiatives in states across the country was sharply down from the last presidential election, the diverse slate of measures offered a chance to gauge the mood of the nation.
In Florida, where the two presidential candidates were within a few points of each other, voters approved a pro-labor amendment to the Constitution that will raise the minimum wage incrementally to $15 an hour in 2026.
Florida becomes the eighth state to enact a minimum wage of $15, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, but the first state that Donald J. Trump carried in the 2016 presidential election. The District of Columbia has also enacted a $15 minimum wage.
Florida’s measure, known as Amendment 2, earned a place on Tuesday’s ballot last December and needed at least 60 percent of the vote to pass. With 99% of the vote counted, the measure had slightly more than 61 percent.
Under the measure, the state minimum wage would rise from its current hourly rate of $8.56 to $10 next September, and then increase by $1 every September through 2026. After that, annual increases would be tied to inflation.
A study by the Florida Policy Institute, a think tank backing the increase, found that the higher wage would directly benefit 2.5 million workers in the state.
The amendment was supported by unions and the Miami-Dade Democratic Party and was opposed by business organizations representing construction companies, citrus farmers, hotels and restaurants.