A simple drive on the freeway through Portland and the sight of all its homeless camps confirms what many have suspected for a long time—the tendency in this state towards the legalization of drugs has come with tremendous consequences for individuals, families and all of society.
My fear is that the passage of Measure 110 in last November’s general election will only further exacerbate the problem.
Dubbed by its sponsors as the “Drug Decriminalization and Addiction Treatment Initiative,” Measure 110 passed with around 58 percent of the vote, with over 1.3 million Oregonians electing to support it. The measure’s supporters raised $6 million for their campaign, while opponents were only able to raise $167,000.
Prominent figures who came out against the measure included Clackamas County District Attorney John Foote and former Governor John Kitzhaber, who had worked for years as an emergency room physician in Roseburg. Kitzhaber said that Measure 110 “makes it more difficult to treat the underlying addiction that leads to drug use in the first place.” Washington County District Attorney Kevin Barton predicted that its passage will “lead to increased crime and increased drug use.”
Under the measure, personal, non-commercial possession of a controlled substance will be no more than a Class E violation carrying a maximum fine of $100. It includes schedule I-IV substances like heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine. Even worse, the changes to the law under the measure now allow for possession of one gram or less of heroin, two grams or less of cocaine and meth, less than one gram or five pills of MDMA, less than 12 grams of psilocybin, less than 40 units of methadone and less than 40 pills, tablets or capsules of oxycodone.
Possession of the same drugs had been a Class C misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a fine of up to $6250. Fortunately, manufacturing and distribution of those same drugs will remain a criminal penalty.
In lieu of paying a fine, offenders will have the option of completing a health assessment through the addiction recovery centers created by the measure’s passage. That assessment must include a substance use disorder screening conducted by a certified drug and alcohol counselor within 45 days of the violation.
The drug addiction treatment and recovery program will be funded in part by marijuana tax revenue and the projected savings from having fewer people in prison for drug-related crimes. All revenue to the state’s marijuana account over $11.25 million will be required to be transferred to the Drug Treatment and Recovery Services Fund (DTRSF) every quarter before being transferred to any other areas. This means that there will be a reduction of marijuana revenue distributed to cities and counties.
A minimum of $57 million in annual funding, adjusted for inflation, is now mandated to be provided by the Legislature to the DTRSF, although it’s estimated that the marijuana revenue diversion will be sufficient to fund it.
An Oversight Accountability Council will be established by the director of the Oregon Health Authority and will give grants from the DTRSF to government or community-run organizations to create addiction recovery centers. Those centers will then be required to provide medical or other treatment 24 hours a day, assessments, intervention plans, case management and peer support.
The recover centers in each Coordinated Care Organization service area are mandated to be established by October 1.
A legislative committee has been assigned to work on the measure’s implementation. My hope is that the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Ballot Measure 110 Implementation will consider the consequences of this measure over the next few months as it works on turning it into a functioning law.
Ultimately, there are direct connections between many of the same issues that are causing problems on the streets of Portland. Property crime, mental illness, homelessness and drug addiction are all related. Hopefully, our elected legislators will be able to implement this ill-advised ballot measure in such a way that it will not further erode the quality of life of all Oregonians.