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Oregon considers reversing decision to decriminalize heroin, fentanyl following rise in open-air drug use
Staff photo by Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Oregon considers reversing decision to decriminalize heroin, fentanyl following rise in open-air drug use

After becoming the first state in the nation to decriminalize hard drug use, including heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl, Oregon is reconsidering its decision due to a drastic increase in open-air drug use, the Telegraph reported.

Police chiefs, district attorneys, and city officials are calling for Oregon lawmakers to partially or entirely reverse Measure 110, the Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act. In 2020, Oregon voters opted to pass the referendum, claiming it would help to address the state’s drug addiction and overdose crisis by shifting focus to providing treatment options.

“Law enforcement should spend more time on community safety, but Oregon law enforcement officers in 2017 arrested more than 8,000 people in cases where simple drug possession was the most serious offense,” Measure 110 states. “In many instances, the same people were arrested for drug possession, again and again, because they are unable to get treatment.”

Under the measure, those in possession of a gram or less of hard drugs are subject to a ticket and a maximum fine of $100. Individuals can have the fine waived by calling a 24-hour hotline to seek treatment.

Eugene Police Chief Chris Skinner stated that approximately 6,000 people have received the citations, but fewer than 125 called the hotline. Additionally, individuals are not penalized for failing to pay the fine.

“We don’t have even really one successful example of somebody that went from a citation issued on the street to self-assessment to addiction services to a place of wellness,” Skinner told Eugene City Council.

He noted that Oregon is “on pace to shatter the record for overdose calls for service and shatter the record for overdose deaths.”

“Police officers and firefighters are administering Narcan, lifesaving Narcan, at an alarming rate,” Skinner added.

According to a recent Emerson poll, 56% of Oregon voters want to repeal Measure 110.

Law enforcement officials do not support a complete repeal of the act but are urging for drug possession to be a class A misdemeanor, compelling drug addicts to seek treatment.

Jason Edmiston, police chief in Hermiston, said, “We don’t believe a return to incarceration is the answer, but restoring a [class A] misdemeanor for possession with diversion opportunities is critically important.”

Tiffany Edwards, vice president of policy and community development at Eugene Chamber of Commerce, told the Telegraph, “When measure 110 was passed, we in our community started to see a significant rise in crime and, in particular, open-air drug use.”

“There were a lot of complaints from the business community. It is having a severe impact on our businesses, economic development, and the wellness of our community,” she continued. “We recognised while Measure 110 coincided with the explosion of fentanyl in the U.S. in general, I think what we learned was that there were a lot of flaws in how the measure was implemented.”

Democratic state Senator Kate Lieber said, “Everything’s on the table” when it comes to exploring solutions to make Oregon’s streets safer.

Republican lawmakers recently wrote a letter to Democratic Governor Tina Kotek, urging her to call a special session to address the drug crisis. They insisted that “treatment should be a requirement, not a suggestion.”

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