Oregon Undoes Drug Decriminalization Law

In 2021, Oregon passed a groundbreaking law that decriminalized all drugs. Titled Measure 110, it was the first of its kind in the United States. Measures like these have been tried in other countries and have been successful. This initiative aimed to prioritize drug treatment over police enforcement, by using cannabis revenue to open new addiction treatment centers. However, after 3 years, the experiment has failed.

Oregon lawmakers are now reintroducing criminal penalties for the possession of hard drugs. Lawmakers had recently reached a bipartisan deal to undo a key aspect of the law and make minor possession a misdemeanor.

The measure makes the possession of small amounts of drugs such as heroin or meth a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail. It enables police to confiscate the drugs and crack down on drug use on sidewalks and in parks. Public drug usage has been rampant in Oregon since the pandemic. Drug treatment is to be offered as an alternative to criminal penalties.

The authors of the bill have said that drug users will have the opportunity to seek treatment before facing any criminal consequences and that the proposal was necessary to give law enforcement the power to tackle public drug use. One proponent pledged to ensure it would not have racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

Oregon has seen a 1,500% rise in overdose deaths since the pandemic started, the steepest increase in the country. In 2022, almost 1,000 people in the state died from opiate overdoses.