Oregon’s Drug Decriminalization Disaster

Ballot approval of Oregon’s Measure 110 in November 2020 launched the beginning of a doomed experimental approach that has become a drug decriminalization disaster for the state in less than 18 months.

The measure was greatly touted and funded by pro-drug groups, with the goal to reduce Oregon drug possession arrests by 90% by decriminalizing Schedule I-IV drugs such as heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine.  Monies from the state’s marijuana taxes as well as savings from the reduction in arrests were to be used in part to fund services for treatment, recovery, and harm reduction. The program also allowed for citation fines to be waived if the recipient accessed hotline for a health assessment that might include a referral to treatment or other harm reduction services.

What has been found is that only 10% of the promised $300M has been disbursed to organizations providing services. The picture is dismal with 2021 drug overdose deaths greatest level of 1,069, a 41% increase over the previous year. Only 116 people called the hotline to access the health assessment with 66 only seeking the verification to avoid the fine, 26 previously receiving some form of service, and 24 people who requested some type of help.

Meanwhile murders are at their highest level ever, connected to gangs and drug turf wars. District Attorney Kevin Barton of Washington County, Oregon said that property and violent crimes have increased, a fact echoed by other rural police departments.

"It was never designed to reduce our addiction rates, so it was never designed to deal with our addiction crisis, it was always meant to deal with the war on drugs."                        -Mike Marshall, Co-founder and Director of Oregon Recovers

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