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Oregon relaxes drug laws in effort to curb mass incarceration.

In August 2017, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed a landmark law that reduces first-time drug possession offenses for a wide array of illegal drugs—including heroin, cocaine, and LSD—from felonies to misdemeanors and also increases access to treatment.Oregon HB 2355 (2017); and Wing, “Drug Possession Is No Longer a Felony Offense in Oregon” (2017).  

As one supporter of the law noted, “We are trying to move policy towards treatment rather than prison beds.”Nicole Lewis, “Oregon Bill Decriminalizes Possession of Heroin, Cocaine and Other Drugs,” Washington Post, July 11, 2017. A 2015 study found that black people are twice as likely—and Native American people five times as likely—as white people to be convicted of felony drug offenses in Oregon.Nicole Lewis, “Oregon Bill Decriminalizes Possession of Heroin, Cocaine and Other Drugs,” Washington Post, July 11, 2017; and Oregon Criminal Justice Commission, “Oregon Drug Trends,” Lawmakers are hopeful that the new law will work to reduce these racial disparities.Lewis, “Oregon Bill Decriminalizes Possession” (2017).