Oregon lawmakers roll back nation’s most permissive drug law

Fatal overdoses have skyrocketed in the Beaver State

The bill undoes much of what Measure 110 legalized more than three years ago. Over 58 percent of Oregon voters approved Measure 110 in November 2020. Instead of getting booked into jail, individuals cited for possessing drugs like fentanyl or heroin could choose between paying a $100 fine or calling a hotline to get connected with a recovery center for an evaluation and referral for treatment. In the first year after voters OK’d the measure, less than 1 percent of people ticketed by police accessedtreatment services, choosing to pay the fine and continue using drugs. 

“We’ve seen a sharp increase in overdose deaths since Measure 110 was passed,” said Jordan Davidson, who manages government affairs for the Foundation for Drug Policy Solutions, an organization that opposes decriminalization. Overdose deaths in the state jumped by more than 70 percent between 2020 and 2022, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while fatal overdoses increased 18 percent nationally over that same period. 

Proponents of Measure 110 argued it would reduce the overall drug crisis since more people in the grip of addiction would get the treatment they needed instead of languishing in jail. 

“We’ve had Measure 110 for around four years now. And we should have seen a reduction in these numbers,” Davidson argued. “When you have a culture of normalization for drug use, that will encourage other people to begin drug use. And it will encourage people to continue.” 

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