Just last Friday John Legend voiced his support of drug decriminalization by endorsing an initiative in Oregon that would decriminalize the possession of all currently illegal drugs and invest money in the treatment of substance abuse.
He made his endorsement in the middle of a thread on Twitter in which he was providing information on various state level ballot measures.
“I support Measure 110 to decriminalize drug possession and fund more treatment services,” he said. “Please [Vote Yes on 110] to reform the criminal justice system.”
— John Legend (@johnlegend) October 23, 2020
This new proposal would be a first in the US. It would make Oregon the first state in the union to remove the threat of prison or jail for drug possession. It was already endorsed by the Oregon Democratic party earlier this month.
🗳️✅Vote YES on Measure 110: Instead of arresting and jailing people for personal possession of small amounts of drugs, would expand access to drug treatment services paid for by marijuana taxes. @voteYESon110 #orpol
— Oregon Democrats (@ORDems) September 23, 2020
US Congressman, Earl Blumenauer backed the ballot and wrote,
“One of the most urgent issues we face is the unconscionable shortage of drug treatment for people who want help as they struggle with drug addiction. Instead of providing treatment, we treat them as criminals, making things incalculably worse for them, their families and the rest of the community while wasting huge sums of money. That is why I am such a strong supporter of Ballot Measure 110. Measure 110 will help shift Oregon to a health-based approach to a health-based drug addiction crisis. This is more compassionate, more effective, safer, and simple common sense.”
This is not the first time that John Legend has spoken out about the decriminalization of drugs. In a 2018 interview with The Players Tribune he was asked what he would do if he had political power, what follows is his answer.
“I think I would decriminalize drugs — treat drugs as a public-health issue and not as a criminal issue. I’ve seen it work in other countries. Portugal, for instance, decriminalized drugs years ago. And not only did the new laws reduce incarceration, but they also actually reduced deaths by drug overdose and reduced drug use.
I think a lot of people think, if we lock more people up, people won’t do as many drugs. But what ends up happening is, we aren’t really solving the problem of drug demand by waging a war on drugs when people are still finding ways to get drugs. And the drug-overdose problem is still huge. You would think, you know, criminalizing it and making it tougher on people that get caught would actually help solve the problem, but it doesn’t. I think legalizing marijuana is the first step, but I think going beyond that — realizing that the war on drugs was never a good idea, and that we should treat drug addiction as a health problem instead of a criminal problem — is the answer.”
This would be a huge coup for Oregon. According to the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission, the decriminalization of drugs would reduce felony and misdemeanour convictions for drug possession by 91 percent, and that reduction would be “substantial for all racial groups, ranging from 82.9 percent for Asian Oregonians to approximately 94 percent for Native American and Black Oregonians.”
The cost of decriminalization will be defrayed by taxing the recently legalised recreational marijuana. If this ballot measure is successful Oregon could be a test case for the rest of the US.