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Oregon looks to recriminalize possession of heroin, meth, and more after fewer than 4 years of decriminalization
Photo by Jim Steinfeldt/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Oregon looks to recriminalize possession of heroin, meth, and more after fewer than 4 years of decriminalization

A bill that would criminalize small amounts of drug possession and overturn a decriminalization motion from 2020 passed in the Oregon state Senate and will head to the governor's desk.

House Bill 4002 passed in the Oregon House with a 51-7 vote and subsequently in the state Senate with 21-8 vote, recriminalizing possession of small amounts of drugs such as heroin or methamphetamine.

As Breitbart reported, possession would be punishable by up to six months in jail and enables police to confiscate drugs. Drug treatment would also be offered as an alternative to criminal penalties.

"With this bill, we are doubling down on our commitment to make sure Oregonians have access to the treatment and care that they need," said Democratic state Senate Majority Leader Kate Lieber, one of the bill’s authors.

She added that it would "be the start of real and transformative change for our justice system."

Under the new law, five grams or more of specified drugs constitute "substantial quantities," which would increase criminal sentencing and be used to justify punishment for other crimes, such as drug trafficking.

Other drugs listed included fentanyl, cocaine, psilocybin, and more.

Governor Tina Kotek has not openly stated whether she will sign or veto the bill, however Oregon Public Broadcasting noted that the governor has alluded to the idea of recriminalizing drug possession.

Much of the worry around drug use in the state has come from an opioid epidemic. Blaze News reported many of the troubling statistics leading up the state's vote, including that fatal overdoses have skyrocketed.

According to Oregon Health Authority data, the number of fatal overdoses was 824 in 2020. Then, after decriminalization, there were 1,189 fatal overdoses in 2021. Preliminary data indicated the number of deaths from overdoses in 2022 was over 1,100.

OregonLive.com also noted that in the year ending September 2019, there were 77 known fentanyl deaths. In the year ending September 2023, there were reportedly 1,268 overdose deaths.

Criticisms came from other Democrats who said it was a return to a "punishment narrative" that has failed for half a century.

"I’m concerned that it (the bill) will attempt to use the same tactics of the past, and fail, only to reinforce the punishment narrative that has failed for 50 years,” said Democratic Senator Lew Frederick.

The senator also said he worried that more people will be put into the court system rather than becoming healthier.

At the same time, Oregon is in an official state of emergency — enacted in late January 2024 — due to its fentanyl crisis.

The new bill reportedly encourages law enforcement agencies and prosecutors to refer individuals convicted of possession to drug treatment programs. $211 million has been allocated in the bill.

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Andrew Chapados

Andrew Chapados

Andrew Chapados is a writer focusing on sports, culture, entertainment, gaming, and U.S. politics. The podcaster and former radio-broadcaster also served in the Canadian Armed Forces, which he confirms actually does exist.

@andrewsaystv →