Sentinel Surveillance of Emerging Drug Decriminalization Legislation

More than one million people are arrested annually for drug possession across the United States. People charged with and convicted of criminal drug offenses can face devastating collateral consequences, including eviction, unemployment, loss of the right to vote, and deportation. Research shows that criminalization of drug possession contributes to the marginalization of people with substance use disorders, results in stark racial disparities, and costs billions of dollars. In addition, research suggests that decriminalizing drug possession would not significantly increase drug use rates.

In November 2020, voters in Oregon approved Measure 110, which reclassified personal possession of all controlled substances from a criminal to a civil violation. The measure, which became operative in February 2021, also allocated funding for community-based organizations to engage in substance use treatment and harm reduction initiatives. Since the passage of Oregon’s measure, several other state legislators have introduced bills that would decriminalize possession of most or all controlled substances.  

This dataset tracks sweeping legislation that broadly decriminalizes drug possession, providing a high-level overview of legislation that decriminalizes personal possession of most or all controlled substances (please refer to the Research Protocol for the full details). This dataset does not include laws or bills that decriminalize possession of only a few, specific substances (e.g., marijuana only or psychedelic substances only). The dataset covers all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia and includes enacted state laws as of March 15, 2022. It also captures state bills that were introduced on or after January 1, 2021, but have since failed, or are still pending as of March 15, 2022.

This dataset was created using the sentinel surveillance of emerging laws and policies legal mapping method with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The information contained herein does not constitute legal advice. If you have questions regarding your legal rights or obligations, contact an attorney in your jurisdiction.

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