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Oregon Drug Decriminalization Reform - An Overview

Oregon voted in “Measure 110” at the end of 2020, which took effect on 2/1/21. M110 was implemented to address drug addiction in Oregon, providing treatment instead of prison sentences. M110 makes possession of small amounts of drugs such as fentanyl, heroin, and cocaine a “Class E” misdemeanor instead of a “Class A.” Class E is enforced by fining an individual up to $100, while Class A could result in up to a year in jail and at most $6k in fines. Possession of large amounts of drugs under M110 is a Class A misdemeanor instead of a felony. M110 also allocated $264 million in grants to 233 recovery services. The effectiveness of these programs is up for debate as an audit from the “Oregon Health Authority and Oversight” and “Accountability Council” reviewed the performance of the providers enabled by the grants. From the report, “It is not clear how many providers of culturally specific services were funded to help serve populations most affected by the war on drugs…” State officials plan to allocate another $150 million through June 2025 to these programs, followed by another audit in the same year. The Oregon Health Authority responded that it would improve the grant application process and collect better data about the programs going forward. 

Once an individual receives a Class E fine, they are instructed to call a treatment facility to receive care for recovery. If they call, they can avoid paying the fine. However, law enforcement claims that most individuals fined will either ignore paying the citation or call the hotline to pay the ticket without receiving treatment. More Oregon citizens now report feeling uncomfortable in their communities as they observe more instances of drug use than before. These factors have led to the formation of a bi-partisan committee that has been meeting since October to discuss M110 reform. They are hearing testimony from law enforcement, addiction experts, and treatment providers to glean insight into the current situation and possibly reform/repeal M110.

Activists argue that money provided in 2022 to recovery programs laid the foundation for change but requires more time to be effective. Furthermore, activists such as “The Drug Policy Alliance” point to a study from RTI International that they present as evidence that M110 is not the reason for more crime in Oregon (a point made to citizens who are uncomfortable with the effects they perceive in their neighborhoods). The study observes rates of 911 calls before implementing M110 (February 2021) to June 2022. Comparing this data to other rates of 911 calls from metropolitan areas, activists make the case that M110 had little effect on the volume of emergency calls. Even though the data shows an uptick in property crime calls by 56% since implementing M110. It is also unclear if factoring in emergency sentiment was analyzed in data reporting. As acts such as drug use were deemed legal, citizens may not feel that those acts merit a 911 call.

Oregon citizens continue to wait for a M110 reform proposal. Republican leaders in Oregon have already presented their ideas for reform, which generally revert to the drug laws that were in place. The bi-partisan committee continues to meet to produce an agreed-upon proposal as the effects of M110 continue to play out in Oregon. 


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