Oregon Recriminalizes Hard Drugs

(RightWing.org) – In 2020, Oregon voters made national headlines when they voted to pass Measure 110 decriminalizing hard drugs such as cocaine, oxycodone, heroin, and methamphetamine. The law, which went into effect the following year, didn’t legalize them, exactly, but it did away with penalties, including fines and potential jail time. Now, just three years later, state legislators have passed a bill to reimpose those penalties for some drugs in a reversal of an approach that has been deemed too progressive.

Soaring Overdose Rates

One of the main factors that spurred legislators into action is the increasing rate of overdoses and deaths that stem from them. In fact, in 2022, the state saw a 20% increase in people suffering from overdoses. By March 2023, police were receiving upwards of 11 calls a day.

The theory behind passing Measure 110 was that decriminalizing drugs would allow addicts to get the help they needed. Yet, the drug treatment and harm reduction programs never came to fruition.

Hundreds of millions of dollars that were supposed to be allocated to the cause fell through. Thus, the number of overdoses increased and so did the number of addicts, according to The Associated Press. Additionally, once the measure went into effect, only 1% of those who received citations for possession of controlled substances contacted the hotline created.

Recovery Works Northwest outreach worker Jovannis Velez spoke with NBC News saying “We were too progressive” and “Society wasn’t ready for it.”

Bill Signed Into Law

On Monday, April 1, Governor Tina Kotek (D) signed House Bill 4002 that would recriminalize even small amounts of hard drugs. These include heroin and methamphetamine. Anyone caught with them faces misdemeanor charges, which could land them behind bars for up to six months.

According to a letter penned by Kotek to the state Senate President and House Speaker, the bill also establishes multiple elements, including “tasks forces concerned with behavioral health,” and a behavioral health workforce program. It also aims to reduce barriers to people who are seeking treatment for their addiction.

House Bill 4002 is to be paired with Senate Bill 5204, which outlines investments in that sphere with a priority on treatment first, yet still creates a balance that includes “the need for accountability.”

Senate Majority Leader Kate Lieber (D) said the passage of the bill was good news for Oregonians because it’s meant as a “start of real and transformative change for [the state’s] justice system.”

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