A growing number of states have either decriminalized all illicit drugs or are at least discussing it. Include Massachusetts in that group.

The Boston Herald reported the Massachusetts Legislature's Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use, and Recovery "unceremoniously reported favorably" on S.1277 and H.2119, a pair of bills filed last year known as "An Act relative to harm reduction and racial equality." According to Trackbill.com, the bills have been sent to the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing for further study.

Massachusetts Lawmakers Are Considering Decriminalizing All Drugs
Credit: New Bedford Police

The move kills the legislation for this session but indicates that lawmakers are interested in continuing the discussion in the next session.

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Dartmouth Democrat Rep. Chris Markey serves on the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use, and Recovery. Markey said he does not support the proposed legislation.

Massachusetts Lawmakers Are Considering Decriminalizing All Drugs
State Rep. Chris Markey

According to marijuanamoment.net, "Oregon made history when voters approved a ballot initiative to decriminalize possession of all drugs and expand access to treatment" in November 2020. The online publication says several other states, including California, Virginia, New York, and Washington, are considering similar measures.

The Herald reported the proposed change in the state's drugs laws says in part, writing "Any person who violates this section shall be subject to a civil fine of not more than fifty dollars or participation in a needs screening to identify health and other service needs."

Man drugs addicted injecting heroine in his arm
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Supporters of such decriminalization laws argue that arresting and jailing people for drug offenses is the wrong approach and has failed continuously.

"I don't think legalization of illicit drugs accomplishes the goals of individuals who are addicted to drugs," Rep. Markey said. "We need more substance abuse counseling and rehabilitation centers."

"Legalizing it will not take away the addiction issue," he said. "Criminalization often limits people's use of the drugs initially, and that is my hope."

Stay tuned as we have not heard the last of this debate.

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