Oregon Faces Harsh Consequences of Drug Decriminalization, Law Rolled Back

(TargetDailyNews.com) – After what appears to be the failure of the “harm-reduction” approach to drug abuse, the overwhelmingly politically progressive state of Oregon is turning back the clock on its drug laws.

Three years ago, Measure 110 passed, and it was the first law in the nation to decriminalize what are commonly called “hard drugs,” including cocaine, heroin, fentanyl, and many others.

Effective February 2021, the law bumped down the consequences of hard drug possession from a criminal charge to a misdemeanor with a $100 fine. Those busted by police for using drugs in public would also be given a card pointing to addiction treatment services. Measure 110 also created “Behavioral Health Resource Networks” (BHRNs), bodies that were meant to come up with “community-based” solutions to problem drug use.

But now, state lawmakers and many citizens have had enough. Open drug use and public overdoses are now part of daily life in cities like Portland. In early March the legislature voted to get rid of some of the law’s provisions, reverting to more traditional methods of drug policing. The new provisions take effect September 1st, 2024.

Under current law, police simply write public drug users a misdemeanor ticket, hand them the card about addiction treatment, and let them leave. Starting in September, police will be required to either physically take arrested people to a drug treatment center or put them before a judge. Judges will be required to put them on probation, and repeat offenders will get gradually longer probation terms and may face jail time.

Some police say the current, laxer approach to drugs isn’t working. Portland officer David Baer said cops see the same people day after day, and write them the same tickets, even ticketing the same people multiple times a day. The statistics don’t look good, either. City data shows police have tracked 7,600 drug use busts in three years, but only 200 of those ticketed ended up calling the state’s treatment facilities.

While Oregon is turning its back on the decriminalization experiment, other states, such as Maine and Vermont, are considering decriminalization laws of their own.

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