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The Oregon Drug Battle: Is Measure 110 Making a Difference?

The Oregon Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act, also known as Measure 110, was passed in November 2020 to address Oregon’s addiction and overdose problem.[1]  Measure 110 was designed to implement a more humane approach to handling drug addiction.[2]  While drug possession is typically charged as a misdemeanor, Oregon’s new law reduces the charge to a civil infraction.[3]  When the police observe an individual with a small amount of drugs, a citation and $100 fine is issued instead of an arrest.[4] This fine can then be waived if the individual calls a support line and completes a “social service needs assessment.”[5]  Measure 110 also created the Behavioral Health Resource Networks to provide resources for people abusing drugs who need “treatment, care, and services.”[6]  These services include harm-reduction interventions and peer support.[7]  A report published by the Oregon Health Authority “found more than 60,000 Oregonians struggling with addiction were helped through Measure 110,”[8] which suggests that the Measure is beneficial. Nonetheless, there are gaps in Measure 110 that Oregon desperately needs to address.[9] 

For example, those who received the citation and $100 fine have 45 days to “complete an addiction screening” and get the citation dismissed.[10]  However, those who fail to call are not penalized—in fact, in February 2021, “only 1% of individuals who received citations for possession sought help via the hotline.”[11]  Without some form of punishment, Oregon lawmakers argue, people are not motivated to seek help.[12]  Additionally, as of August 2022, “[m]ost of the more than 3,169 citations” were ignored, meaning “recipients neither [paid] a fine nor show[ed] up in court.”[13] 

Moreover, Measure 110 has led to two central problems for the police. Christopher Campbell, a professor at Portland State University, noted that “officers are skeptical of how decriminalization can motivate people to voluntarily seek treatment, which is manifested into officers being far less willing to hand out citations.”[14]  Second, officers have “lost leverage” with drug users, making it “harder to find informants willing to help them take down the big drug dealers and distributors.”[15] 

In 2021, “overdose deaths in Oregon rose 41%, compared to a national increase of 16%.”[16]  Although Measure 110 is not the sole cause of the spike in overdose deaths,[17] this stark increase proves that “Oregon’s drug crisis is worsening more quickly than in other states.”[18]  In the next few months, Oregonians may decide the future of Measure 110 as state lawmakers recently “released details of a proposal that would end Measure 110 by mandating misdemeanor penalties for drug possession and treatment to avoid jail.”[19] 

Recently, in January 2024, Oregon declared a state of emergency in Portland for 90 days as drug use spiraled out of control.[20]  Some citizens of Oregon feel unsafe; for instance, Cat and Chad Sewell, who own a bakeshop in Salem, “have witnessed drug use leading to conflicts outside their business.”[21] To combat drug use in the state, Democrats are willing to collaborate with Republicans, who aim to eliminate the measure, to find a middle ground.[22] Democrats have proposed making drug use a class C misdemeanor with a 30-day jail sentence or a fine of $1,250.[23]  Republicans “want to make possession of small amounts of fentanyl, heroin, and meth a class A misdemeanor, which carries up to a year in jail, or a fine up $6, 250 fine, or both.”[24] It is essential for Oregon to address these matters as Measure 110 has not solved the citys drug problems.  

 


[1] Why Measure 110?, HJRA, https://healthjusticerecovery.org/facts/ (last visited Feb. 13, 2024).

[2] Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act, Oʀᴇɢᴏɴ Hᴇᴀʟᴛʜ Aᴜᴛʜᴏʀɪᴛʏhttps://www.oregon.gov/oha/hsd/amh/pages/measure110.aspx (last visited Feb. 18, 2024).

[3] Why Measure 110?, supra note 1.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id. 

[7] Id.  

[8] Blair Best, Report on Measure 110 shows more than 60,000 people struggling with addiction were helped, KGW8 (Feb. 6, 2023, 6:16PM PDT), https://www.kgw.com/article/news/local/homeless/impact-of-oregon-measure-110/283-85f10e28-c6cf-47d4-b775-84c5e6828178#%3A~%3Atext=In%20a%20preliminary%20report%20released%20last%20week,%20the,and%20Recovery%20Act%20voters%20approved%20back%20in%202020.

[9] Conrad Wilson, Oregon pioneered a radical drug policy. Now it’s reconsidering., NPR (Feb 7. 2024, 3:20 PM EST), https://www.npr.org/2024/02/07/1229655142/oregon-pioneered-a-radical-drug-policy-now-its-reconsidering#:~:text=Oregon%20voters%20passed%20the%20most,and%20point%20them%20towards%20treatment.

[10] Claire Rush, Oregon’s first-in-the-nation drug decriminalization law is facing pushback amid the fentanyl crisis, AP Nᴇᴡs (Nov. 19, 2023, 12:07 AM EST), https://apnews.com/article/oregon-drugs-decriminalization-pushback-bb209e6ba9835c69f95b093c8ee00279.

[11] Id.

[12] Id. 

[13] Dirk VanderHart, Addiction experts tell Oregon lawmakers the state has been too lax on drug use, OPB (Sept. 21, 2022, 5:44 PM), https://www.opb.org/article/2022/09/21/oregon-decriminalize-drugs-measure-110-addiction-treatment/

[14] Pat Dooris &; Jamie Parfitt, Did Measure 110 take away ‘rock bottom’? Oregon cops seems to think so., KGW8 (June 6, 2023, 5:45 PM PDT), https://www.kgw.com/article/news/local/the-story/measure-110-psu-study-cops-law-enforcement-failure/283-6f4d0b71-aeaa-48ef-b9eb-f69384726649.

[15] Id. 

[16] Id.

[17] Wilson, supra note 9. 

[18] Dooris & Parfitt, supra note 14.

[19] Ben Botkin, House Republicans introduce bill to end Measure 110, Oʀᴇɢᴏɴ Cᴀᴘɪᴛᴀʟ Cʜʀᴏɴɪᴄʟᴇ (Jan.11, 2024), https://oregoncapitalchronicle.com/2024/01/11/house-republicans-introduce-bill-to-end-measure-110/

[20] Adam Yamaguchi & Kerry Breen, Oregon decriminalized drugs in 2020. Now officials are declaring a fentanyl state of emergency, CBS (Jan. 31, 2024), https://www.cbsnews.com/news/oregon-decriminalized-drugs-in-2020-now-officials-are-declaring-a-fentanyl-emergency/

[21] Wilson, supra note 9. 

[22] Botkin, supra note 19.

[23] Associated Press, With Oregon Facing Rampant Public Drug Use, Lawmakers Backpedal on Pioneering Decriminalization Law, U.S. Nᴇᴡs (Jan 23, 2024), https://www.usnews.com/news/us/articles/2024-01-23/with-oregon-facing-rampant-public-drug-use-lawmakers-backpedal-on-pioneering-decriminalization-law

[24] Botkin, supra note 19.

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