Oregon’s Measure 110 Reversal: Unraveling the Decriminalization Experiment

Four years after voters in Oregon approved Measure 110, a failed decriminalization drug policy experiment in the U.S., Governor Tina Kotek has endorsed legislation reintroducing criminal penalties for minor drug possession. This policy shift stems from a surge in overdoses and severe implementation challenges.

Currently under Measure 110, possession of substances including methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin, can result in a ticket and a fine up to $100 which can potentially be waived upon contacting a designated treatment-referral hotline. An audit of Measure 110 revealed alarming concerns related to this mandated treatment-referral hotline. These included conflicts of interest with the contractor hired for its establishment, excessively high costs per call (each exceeding $7000), and the lack of dedicated call logs, hindering the ability to determine whether callers underwent proper screening, assessment or connected to necessary services. The auditors also discovered numerous other concerns which can be read in the full report here.

These revelations prompted legislators, even some who supported Measure 110, to shift away from decriminalization and work to unravel Measure 110. A new bill passed the Democrat-controlled legislature in March and signed into law this month by Governor Kotek will make minor drug possession a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail starting September 1st. It also encourages law enforcement to establish deflection programs diverting people from the criminal justice system into addiction and mental health services.