Voters decided to tolerate possession of hard drugs in 2020. Lawmakers are about to reverse the error.

By Kevin Sabet
March 6, 2024 2:04 pm ET

When Gil Kerlikowske, my then-boss and the Obama administration’s drug czar, announced an end to the war on drugs in May 2009, U.S. drug policy took a more humanitarian, public health-centered approach. Stigmatizing drug users was counterproductive and blocked paths to recovery, we reasoned. At the same time, we were careful not to normalize or legalize drugs. We recognized that making drugs more accessible would be a disaster. It was a balancing act.

Oregon threw that out the window in 2020 when, encouraged by deep-pocketed interest groups, voters approved a ballot measure that decriminalized the possession of small amounts of hard drugs including heroin, fentanyl and cocaine, and removed any incentive for treatment. Now the state is poised to reverse this policy with a vengeance. Oregon’s liberal governor, Tina Kotek, is expected to sign bipartisan legislation repealing Measure 110, the ill-conceived ballot initiative. Read more.