Oregon Governor Takes Action, Recriminalizes Drug Possession with New Law

Oregon Governor Takes Action, Recriminalizes Drug Possession with New Law

A bill that recriminalizes the possession of minor amounts of drugs was signed into law by Democratic Governor Tina Kotek of Oregon on Monday, terminating the country’s first decriminalization experiment that was hampered by implementation problems.

The new law, which makes “personal use” possession a crime punishable by up to six months in jail, reverses a 2020 voter-approved provision.

By pushing law enforcement organizations to develop deflection programs that would direct people toward addiction and mental health treatments rather than the criminal justice system, it also lays the groundwork for treatment to be provided as an alternative to criminal sanctions.

Kotek described the local mental health professionals, judges, police, prosecutors, defense lawyers, and other relevant parties as “necessary partners to achieve the vision for this legislation” in a signing letter, stating that the law’s success will hinge on their “deep coordination.”

Measure 110 reduced the penalties for possessing illegal substances for personal use, such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine, to a maximum of $100 fine and a ticket, after it was adopted by voters in 2020 with 58% of the vote.

Proponents asserted that the decades-long strategy of arresting people for drug possession and use has failed and that therapy is a more effective means of assisting individuals in overcoming addiction than incarceration.

The bill allocated hundreds of millions of dollars to addiction services from the state’s cannabis tax income.

However, official auditors discovered that the funds were slow to leave the country and that the health authorities, already battling the COVID-19 pandemic, had difficulty setting up the new treatment system. Overdose deaths started to rise concurrently with the fentanyl problem.

In recent months, Oregon Democrats have changed their position on decriminalization policy in response to these demands.

During the brief legislative session this year, some of the measure’s supporters from the past cast votes in favor of the new legislation.

Despite resistance from some Democratic politicians who feared the bill would increase arrests and worsen social injustices, it was finally approved by the Democratic-controlled Legislature last month.

The GOP’s top brass had long wanted to modify Measure 110. House Minority Leader Jeff Helfrich stated following Kotek’s signature that the bill demonstrated how Republicans “stood united and forced Democrats” to reinstate criminal penalties.

Sept. 1 is the start date of the reforms.