- Voters in Oregon have passed a measure that decriminalizes, but does not legalize, the possession of small amounts of hard drugs.
- Instead of arrests or prison time, the measure shifts the focus to $100 fines and addiction treatment, with taxes from marijuana sales now helping to fund treatment programs and facilities.
- Oregon has also legalized psychedelic mushrooms, while the District of Columbia has decriminalized them.
- New Jersey, Montana, and Arizona have all voted to legalize recreational marijuana. Mississippi voted to legalize medical marijuana while South Dakota voted to legalize both forms.
Oregon Decriminalizes All Hard Drugs
Oregon has become the first state in the country to decriminalize all drugs, following overwhelming support from voters on a ballot initiative known as Measure 110.
The passing of the measure does not mean hard drugs are now legal in Oregon. Instead, it means that if an individual in Oregon is caught with a small amount of a drug in their possession — for example, heroin, cocaine, meth, oxycontin, etc. — they will face much less severe consequences than arrests and prison time.
The measure will institute fines of $100 for each violation — similar to low-level traffic violations. Very notably, it will also shift focus to helping people receive addiction treatment. For instance, in addition to that $100 fine, people found in possession of hard drugs will be screened for drug addiction.
The measure also makes it so that tax from marijuana sales, which have been legal in the state since 2015, will help fund addiction treatment programs and facilities.
“This is the most significant reform in our nation’s failed drug policies in a generation,” said Kassandra Frederique, the executive director of Drug Policy Alliance, which spent more than $4 million backing Measure 110.
“What the Oregon initiative represents is the ability to prioritize giving our loved ones the help, the resources that they need, and shunning criminalization. It removes the barriers to treatment and harm reduction and other health services.”
Opponents argued that even if this measure does not legalize hard drugs, decriminalization still normalizes drugs that can lead to deadly addiction. Still, advocates have argued that placing an emphasis on treatment — as opposed to punishment through the legal system — will lead to more effective addiction recovery.
While people in possession of small amounts of hard drugs won’t face misdemeanors, people with larger amounts could. In fact, if officials deem that a person is in possession of what they consider a commercial amount of a drug, that person could still face felony charges.
Other Drug Measures Pass Across the U.S.
Among other drug-related measures that passed, Oregon legalized psilocybin mushrooms, also known as psychedelic mushrooms or shrooms.
The District of Columbia also voted to decriminalize them. Both campaigns focused on pushing psychedelic mushrooms as treatments for medical issues such as depression, trauma, and anxiety.
Meanwhile, New Jersey, Arizona, Montana, and South Dakota all legalized recreational marijuana. In the South, Mississippi legalized a medical marijuana program that must be up and running by August 2021. South Dakota legalized both recreational and medical marijuana.
As of now, 15 states and D.C. have legalized marijuana for recreational use.
Both measures in Arizona and Montana were coupled with a clause that allows people who were previously convicted of marijuana crimes in the state — including felonies for possession — to be able to seek to have those convictions expunged by the courts.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (AZ Central) (The New York Times)
Virginia Governor’s Tip Line to Report Teachers Spammed by Trolls
The tip line was created for parents to report educators who violate the governor’s new executive orders banning critical race theory and making masking optional.
Youngkin’s Controversial Policies
Celebrities, TikTok activists, and other social media users have been spamming an email tip line set up by Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) intended for parents to report teachers and “divisive practices in their schools.”
The tip line was implemented after the new governor enacted several highly controversial policies targeted at public schools in the weeks since taking office.
On his first day, Youngkin signed an executive order banning so-called critical race theory (CRT) from being taught in public schools. CRT, which is largely taught in higher education institutions, is not included in Virginia’s curriculum standards. As a result, many educators and scholars have expressed concerns that the policy will be used to broadly restrict the accurate teaching of history.
Shortly after imposing the CRT ban, Youngkin further angered educators by signing an executive order making masking optional in schools. According to a recent analysis by The Washington Post, the majority of Virginia schools enrolling two-thirds of all students have actively disobeyed the order.
The email tip line, introduced Monday, is intended to report educators and schools that do not follow Youngkin’s policies.
Calls to Spam Tip Line
The tattle-on-a-teacher tip line prompted widespread criticism. Many people took to Twitter to urge other users to spam the email, including major names with massive followings, like musician John Legend.
“Black parents need to flood these tip lines with complaints about our history being silenced. We are parents too,” he tweeted.
Several TikTok activists also encouraged their followers to bomb the tip line as well, including 21-year-old Sofia Ongele, who even launched a website that automatically generates emails to send to the line that include the name of a public school in Virginia and lyrics to a pop song.
Ongele told Insider that, so far, the website has gotten a lot of traffic, attracting about 1,500 people every 30 minutes.
These efforts are not the first time social media users, and specifically young TikTokers, have encouraged others to troll a tip line set up by conservative figures. In September, TikTokers also sent fake reports, porn, and Shrek memes to a tip line intended to report people who violated Texas’ six-week abortion ban.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Insider) (WDBJ7)
Federal Court Throws Out Alabama Congressional Map, Citing Racial Gerrymandering
The judges ruled that the Republican-held legislature gerrymandered the map so the state only had one Black-majority district despite Black residents composing 27% of the state’s population.
Alabama Ordered to Redraw Map
A panel of federal judges tossed Alabama’s new congressional map on Monday, ruling that the current version significantly weakens the voting power of Black residents.
In their decision, the three judges noted that while about 27% of Alabamians are Black, the map drawn by the Republican-led legislature after the 2020 census was gerrymandered to leave just one of the state’s seven districts with a Black majority.
“Black voters have less opportunity than other Alabamians to elect candidates of their choice to Congress,” the judges wrote. “We find that the plaintiffs will suffer an irreparable harm if they must vote in the 2022 congressional elections based on a redistricting plan that violates federal law.”
As a result, the panel also ordered state lawmakers to redraw their map so that it includes “two districts in which Black voters either comprise a voting-age majority or something quite close to it.”
The legislature was given 14 days to redo their map before they appoint a special master to do so.
Ongoing Legal Battles
Shortly after the ruling, a spokesperson for Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said in a statement that his office “strongly disagrees with the court’s decision and will be appealing in the coming days.”
According to reports, the matter could ultimately go to the Supreme Court, which would decide whether lawmakers can draw maps that are gerrymandered along racial lines.
The high court ruled in 2019 that federal courts do not have the power to block congressional maps that are gerrymandered to skew districts in a partisan manner unless a state’s constitution explicitly prohibits such gerrymandering. The justices did keep parts of the Voting Rights Act that ban racial or ethnic gerrymandering, which the federal panel claimed was the case in Alabama.
Alabama’s congressional map is not the only one drawn by Republicans that has been thrown out in recent weeks. Earlier this month, Ohio’s Supreme Court ordered lawmakers to redraw a map that would have given Republicans 12 congressional seats and Democrats just three despite the fact that recently the GOP has only won about 55% of the popular vote statewide.
The state’s high court ruled that the map clearly violated a constitutional amendment overwhelmingly passed by voters in 2018 that effectively banned partisan gerrymandering.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (AL.com)
Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Affirmative Action Cases at Harvard and UNC
The decision to take up the two cases marks the first time affirmative action will go before the high court’s latest conservative-majority bloc.
SCOTUS Takes on Race-Conscious Admissions, Again
The Supreme Court announced Monday that it will again consider whether race-conscious admissions programs at universities are legal in two cases that could have serious implications for affirmative action.
The two lawsuits center around admissions policies at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), both of which were brought by the conservative nonprofit Students for Fair Admissions.
The Harvard case started in 2014 with a lawsuit that claimed the school discriminated against Asian American students by effectively creating a quota for their admission. It also alleged the school a subjective standard to measure personality traits like likability, courage, and kindness.
The Ivy League school denied the allegations, claiming the challengers used incorrect statistical analysis and broadly arguing that race-conscious policies are legal.
In the case against UNC, the group alleged that the school discriminated against white and Asian applicants by giving preference to Black, Hispanic, and Native American students.
The university, for its part, argued that its policies create more diversity among its student body, also echoing Harvard’s argument that such rules are legal under decades of Supreme Court precedents.
Past Precedent Up in the Air
Lower courts ruled in favor of both schools, finding they did indeed comply with Supreme Court decisions.
But in taking up these two cases, the high court’s conservative majority will now examine whether race-conscious admissions are legal at all. The move could decide the future of affirmative action and undermine more than four decades of precedent on the use of race in college admissions.
The last two times the high court took up cases regarding affirmative action, the justices upheld the constitutionality of race-conscious programs by slim majorities. Now, those majorities have been replaced by a conservative bloc that includes three justices appointed by former President Donald Trump.
According to reports, the justices will likely hear the cases in October.