Oregon’s landmark experiment in drug decriminalization is expected to end next month, as lawmakers in both parties offer up proposals that would make drug possession a crime for the first time in three years. Via Oregon Public Broadcasting:
The strongest sign yet that change is in the air: Majority Democrats on Tuesday unveiled a wide-ranging proposal that would unravel a portion of Measure 110, the 2020 ballot measure that ensured users could not be prosecuted if caught with small amounts of illicit drugs.
Under that bill, lawmakers would make possession of small amounts of drugs like fentanyl, methamphetamine and heroin a low-level misdemeanor and give law enforcement more power to prosecute dealers. The changes — floated in a proposal by Senate Majority Leader Kate Lieber, D-Portland, and state Rep. Jason Kropf, D-Bend — serve as a starting point for a discussion on drug policy and addiction that promises to be a major focus in this year’s legislative session.
They are a nod to the angst many voters are feeling over open drug use in Portland and surging overdoses around the state, but also a notable course correction for a state that has attempted to prioritize addiction services to drug users over criminal consequences in recent years.
Some of the details:
Included in the proposal are provisions that would give Oregon what Kropf called “the most rehabilitative public safety approach in the country” for drug use. He said people caught with user amounts of drugs would have repeated opportunities to skirt a criminal conviction — or charges altogether — in exchange for meeting with a service provider. Even if a person were convicted under the bill, Kropf and Lieber said, they would have the ability to have their record expunged with relative ease.
The bill, House Bill 4002, also includes a host of other policy changes. Democratic lawmakers want to make it easier for drug users to receive medications to treat withdrawal symptoms, dedicate money to bolster specialty courts that prioritize treatment, and create new sober housing and other needed services.
State house Republicans think the new proposal doesn’t go far enough, and want the minimum charge to carry a sentence of a year in jail.