Oregon Lawmakers Consider Reversing Drug Decriminalization

Oregon lawmakers from both the Democratic and Republican parties have recently begun exploring different ways to roll back drug decriminalization in the state, amid criticism from advocacy groups.

Full story after the jump.

Oregon Republican lawmakers in the House last week unveiled a proposal that would re-criminalize drug possession in the state by reassigning misdemeanor penalties for drug possession and mandating addiction treatment to avoid jail, the Oregon Capital Chronicle reports. The bill seeks to override the state’s 2020 voter-approved drug decriminalization initiative, Measure 110, by making persona possession of fentanyl, heroin, and meth a class A misdemeanor with jail time penalties of up to one year, a fine of up to $6,250, or both, according to the report. Similar penalties would be imposed for public drug use.

Top Democrats in the state, meanwhile, are also considering a proposal to re-criminalize drug possession, but with the option of multiple off-ramps for people to avoid criminal penalties, according to an OPB report. Democrats hope that when faced with legal repercussions, addicts will be more willing to seek and/or accept help as an alternative. Such a program could look similar to the law enforcement-assisted diversion (LEAD) program in Seattle, which allows people who are caught with drugs to be brought to a service provider instead of jail, the report said.

The idea of recriminalizing drugs in Oregon was lambasted by advocacy organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, the Drug Policy Alliance, and others, which together released the following statement:

“Any action by the Oregon legislature that criminalizes addiction would be cruel, harmful, and a failure of leadership. We cannot regress back to the failed war on drug tactics that harm Black, brown, and poor people and make drug addiction, overdose deaths, and homelessness more difficult and expensive to solve.” — Excerpt

Measure 110 was passed by 58% of Oregonians in 2020 but recent polling suggests that voters are not pleased with the state’s ongoing addiction crisis and may have soured on the decriminalization policy.

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