". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


Oregon Lawmakers Backtrack on Drug Decriminalization after Overdoses Skyrocket

January 25, 2024

In 2020, a referendum known as Measure 110 passed in Oregon, which essentially decriminalized the possession of user amounts of hard drugs, including fentanyl, heroin, methamphetamine, LSD, oxycodone, and others. But after an explosive rise in overdoses and drug use occurred in the aftermath of the measure’s passage, state lawmakers are now considering a partial rollback of the law to try and stem the tide of carnage.

On Tuesday, state House Democrats released the framework for a bill that would reclassify drug possession as a Class C misdemeanor, “the lowest-level misdemeanor crime under Oregon law” which would “carry a maximum sentence of 30 days in jail, a $1,250 fine, or both.” Under the current Measure 110, a drug possession charge would at most result in a $100 ticket, which could be waived if the fined individual contacts a drug abuse helpline.

After the implementation of Measure 110, drug overdose deaths in Oregon reached never before seen heights, rising 61% compared to 13% nationally. An average of three people died per day in the state due to overdose. As noted by Oregon House Minority Leader Jeff Helfrich (R):

“Fentanyl, a drug that is 50 times stronger than heroin, has surpassed methamphetamine as the most frequent drug involved in overdose deaths in Oregon. For all ages, fentanyl overdoses surged nearly 600% between 2019 and 2021. And it kills Oregon’s teenagers at a rate higher than any other state. The Oregon Health Authority reports that the amount of seized fentanyl in Oregon’s high intensity drug trafficking areas (HIDTA) increased from 690 counterfeit pills in 2018 to more than 2 million in 2022.”

On Wednesday, Helfrich joined “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins” to discuss the failure of Measure 110.

“[All] it takes [is a] walk through the streets of Portland, or … what you see on the news and the media, [to] actually [see] what 110 has done,” he observed. “It’s a failed experiment. It has come from the progressive Left, activists in New York, to try to say, ‘It’s okay to do drugs, and you don’t have any accountability.’ As a police officer for 25 and a half years in the city of Portland, I’ve watched, unfortunately, the city decline in the last five years because of these progressive policies.”

Helfrich went on to point out that the activists promoting Measure 110 engaged in deceptive messaging as to what the measure would actually do, with a heavy emphasis on how it would expand addiction treatment programs across the state using tax money from marijuana, with passing mention of its decriminalization of hard drugs.

“I was amazed that the people actually voted for this,” he noted. “But understanding that the ballot title talked about directing resources for recovery or people to get recovery, what they didn’t see at the bottom of the last line was reclassifying certain possession of drugs. And that has ruined our society. [I]t’s [an] experiment that has … failed. We, as Republicans, have offered solutions to this, and our solutions aren’t partisan. Our solutions are bipartisan, [and] they’re solutions that Oregonians want.”

Helfrich further emphasized that the Democrats’ proposal to amend Measure 110 does not go far enough. “They don’t want to have any accountability,” he argued. “… [I]t’s unfortunate because the people want the accountability. [Democrats] want to make it a Class C misdemeanor, and that Class C misdemeanor doesn’t do anything. It’s just a step above a violation.”

State House Republicans offered their own version of a bill to amend 110 earlier this month, which they say would make much more substantive changes. “Oregonians have made it abundantly clear: we must reestablish hard drug use as a Class A misdemeanor so that rehabilitation treatment can be required,” state Rep. Kevin Mannix (R) contended. “The current system does not include such power and a low-level Class C misdemeanor only provides 30 days in jail as an alternative. This is nowhere near the amount of time needed to address addiction.”

The proposed amendment to 110 will likely be introduced in the upcoming legislative session in February.

Dan Hart is senior editor at The Washington Stand.