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Oregon Advances Bill to Raise Penalties For Some Drug Offenses

Lawmakers hoping to alleviate Oregon’s drug crises are closer than ever to repealing a state ballot measure that decriminalized small quantities of hard drugs under an Oregon legislative committee vote Tuesday. The bill came through Oregon’s Democratic-led Joint Committee on Addiction and Community Safety Response as a push back on 2020's Measure 110, which reduced penalties for small drug quantities from a felony or misdemeanor to a citation with a maximum $100 fine, Courthouse News reports. The measure also allowed ticketed individuals to avoid charges if they attended a treatment screening within 45 days of their citation without punishment for skipping court or treatment screenings, which most people did. The bill that passed through the committee Tuesday night reflects a bipartisan compromise that would make small drug possession an unclassified misdemeanor with a jail sentence up to six months.

It also requires the conviction of anyone who sells a controlled substance near a public park, temporary residence shelter or treatment center while encouraging counties to establish a drug treatment deferment program instead of jailing people. “We heard from law enforcement repeatedly that they wanted the tools to be able to intervene and confiscate drugs in our community, but they did not want to take people to jail,” said state Rep. Jason Kropf. “We heard that uniformly from law enforcement. We are providing a framework to make that a reality.” Opponents of the bill say its amendments are bound to harm Oregonians facing drug addiction, particularly since the optional deferment programs it relies on are not mandatory or readily available. Provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that Oregon’s predicted drug overdose death counts rose 42% between September 2022 and September 2023. An Oregon Health Authority-commissioned draft report highlighted how Oregon’s current residential bed capacity for treating substance use disorder topped at 1,606 and that it plans to add only 44 more beds by 2025.


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