Oregon lawmakers propose re-criminalization of drug possession

Oregon lawmakers propose re-criminalization of drug possession

On Jan. 23, two Oregon Democrats proposed a radical change to Measure 110, which was first passed in 2020.

The measure was intended to help solve Oregon’s ongoing drug addiction problem in a way that is still unseen across the nation, by decriminalizing the possession of hard drugs. 

The idea was to shift the focus from incarceration to addiction therapy. However, just under three years into the measure’s implementation into law, Democrats Jason Kropf and Kate Lieber are looking to take a step back. 

Specifically, Measure 110 made the possession of small amounts of certain drugs into a Class E violation. This meant that instead of being incarcerated, the maximum punishment would be a $100 fine that can be waived if the accused reaches out to one of multiple options for treatment. Critically, failure to comply with the fine, or reach out to treatment cannot result in any further actions taken. 

The proposed changes aim to shift minor possession from a Class E violation into a Class C misdemeanor, the lowest level of crime. According to Jason Kropf, representative of the 54th district, they also plan to maintain several opportunities for those arrested to have several opportunities to avoid a criminal record. 

“Law enforcement can intervene in the moment and create a connection to treatment,” Kropf said. “If that person makes an interaction, that prosecution doesn’t go forward.”

If the prosecution does go through, Kropf plans to allow all Class C misdemeanors for drug possession to be expunged after three years, so that “possession doesn’t interfere with someone’s ability to get work or housing in the future.”

Three years in, and the effects of Measure 110 seem dire. With the rise of fentanyl, it can be hard to say if Measure 110 has made things worse, but it’s easy to see that it hasn’t been the miracle cure some may have hoped for. 

“I think we heard two things resonate during the hearings we’re having,” Kropf said. “Law enforcement is saying that we’re seeing things in our streets, and we don’t have the ability to intervene. But also what we heard is, everytime we make a connection with somebody in crisis to treatment, there is value in that.”

It should be noted that the proposed changes aren’t rolling everything Measure 110 did back. One portion that aims to be enhanced is the money going into addiction treatment. The original measure made it so that a portion of cannabis revenue would go into funding treatment centers. According to Kropf, they aim to “preserve that money and expand it.”

The concept of drug criminalization is one that has a long history, ranging back all the way to the 70s and Richard Nixon’s “War on Drugs.” Unite Oregon claims that this war isn’t a neutral one; it’s one that whether intentionally or not has an active bias against minority groups.

“Trying to treat people with substance use disorders, which is a healthcare crisis by giving them jail time and fines, what they’re doing is choosing to inflict harm on vulnerable Oregonians,” said Meredith Wadlington, the reimagining community safety policy coordinator for Unite Oregon. “We know that the people who will be targeted by those punitive measures are the people that were harmed historically by the war on drugs. That is our Black and brown communities, our low income communities, our rural communities, folks with disabilities, queer folks and veterans.”

In terms of Corvallis, Representative Gelser Blouin sits somewhere in the middle. 

“I think the way that I look at it is that Measure 110 is not working in the way that anyone intended for it to,” Blouin said. “I think that voters were really clear when they voted that we all recognized the War on Drugs doesn’t work, and we wanted to do something more effective by connecting people with treatment. I think that two things are true, what we’re doing right now isn’t working, and what we did before didn’t work either.”

Was this article helpful?
Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Daily Barometer Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *