The western state of Oregon has become the first in the US to officially decriminalise the possession and personal use of all drugs, reports CNN.
Voters in the state approved the change with 55.8% of the vote in November, but it officially went into effect on Monday.
Two dozen district attorneys had opposed the measure, saying it was reckless and would lead to an increase in the acceptability of dangerous drugs.
The change means that police in Oregon can no longer arrest someone for possession of small amounts of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, LSD, oxycodone and other hard drugs. Instead, those found in possession will face a maximum US$100 (RM400) fine or a health assessment that could lead to addiction counselling.
The initiative also expands access to addiction assistance and other health services offering aid to those who need it.
The addiction recovery centres will be funded by millions of dollars of tax revenue from Oregon’s highly profitable legal marijuana industry.
“Today, the first domino of our cruel and inhumane war on drugs has fallen,” Drug Policy Alliance executive director Kassandra Frederique said in statement on Monday.
“This law is meant to protect people against persecution, harassment and criminalisation at the hands of the state for using drugs and instead give them access to the supports they need. We choose health over criminalisation.”
The move to decriminalise drugs in Oregon came after voters in a handful of other US states approved measures to legalise recreational marijuana.
PBS reports that while this approach is new in the US, several countries, including Portugal, the Netherlands and Switzerland, have already decriminalised possession of small amounts of hard drugs.
Portugal’s 2000 decriminalisation brought no surge in hard drug use. Drug deaths fell while the number of people treated for drug addiction in the country rose 20% until 2008 and then stabilised.