Oregon Measure 110 was recently voted in, decriminalizing the possession of any controlled substances:

A "yes" vote supported making personal non-commercial possession of a controlled substance no more than a Class E violation (max fine of $100 fine) and establishing a drug addiction treatment and recovery program funded in part by the state's marijuana tax revenue and state prison savings.

Have there ever been referendums on legalizing the recreational sale of drugs other than marijuana? If not, are there any such referendums currently in the planning?

Clarifications as requested in comments:

  1. Recreational sale = any ordinary citizen without medical conditions can walk into a public store and obtain a dose of said drug.
  2. Legalized = officially permitted and taxed by the local authorities, even if illegal in the superseding jurisdiction. I.e. Amsterdam doesn't count as marijuana and hallucinogenic mushrooms are merely tolerated there, not legalized. Washington state does count as it's fully legal even if illegal on the Federal level.
  3. Drugs = anything other than coffee, cigarettes, marijuana or alcohol that is routinely use for recreational purposes.
  4. Countries where traditional medicine was never fully banned don't count - i.e. the use of coca leaves in South America. The drug in question should've been fully banned at some point in said country.
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    Related: politics.stackexchange.com/questions/18924/… Nov 28, 2020 at 23:11
  • Are you asking just about the US? In some countries the decision was made without a referendum, i.e. by the legislature... Nov 29, 2020 at 2:34
  • @Fizz did any countries legalize other drugs for recreational use? Recreational = I go into an official store, show some ID and get the drug, without any medical conditions imaginary or real. Legalized = it's officially allowed, not just "tolerated" like in Amsterdam. There are also countries like Bolivia where traditional hallucinogenic drugs are not banned, but that's more of a leftover from old times rather than an explicit legalization attempt. Nov 29, 2020 at 2:58
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    By the definition in 3, "skateboards" are not coffee, alcohol nor marijuana, and are routinely used for recreation, hence "skateboards" are drugs.
    – James K
    Nov 29, 2020 at 10:11
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    I'd also note that the use of plebiscites is rather odd in the USA. Throuout the world, laws are produced in the legislatures, not by public vote. For example in Portugaul, drug decimininalistion was done by the goverment. There is no need for referendums if there is no constitutional change. Yet in the USA, constitutional change is one thing is not allowed to be done by referendum.
    – James K
    Nov 29, 2020 at 10:58

1 Answer 1


In 1933 there were a series of elections to choose delegates to state conventions to ratify (or not) the 21st amendment to the constitution, which legalised alcohol. For example in New Jersey 226 delegates were chosen and voters were able to vote for slates of candidates that were "for repeal" or "against repeal".

Thus although this was formally an election of delegates, it functioned as a Presidential election, in that the delegates were pledged to vote one way or another. Thus, this election functioned as a referendum of legalising alcohol.

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    Thanks for the answer. I've updated my question to clarify that alcohol, cigarettes and coffee are also outside the scope of the question - even if they're drugs too from a medical standpoint. Nov 29, 2020 at 3:28
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    I'm going to leave the answer here, as I think I answers the question as it was originally posed. Alcohol is a drug, in the normal use of the word. It was an illegal drug between 1919 and 1933. There were a series of elections that functioned like referendums to legalise it.
    – James K
    Nov 29, 2020 at 10:07

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