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Oregon Reintroduces Criminal Penalties For Drug Offenses With New Law

Oregon Governor Tina Kotek signed a bill into law that recriminalizes the possession of small amounts of drugs on Monday. House Bill 4002, ends the first-in-the-nation drug decriminalization law that was enacted three years ago. The new measure will go into effect this fall, the Statesman Journal, part of the USA TODAY Network reports. Starting Sept. 1, Class E violations — created by Measure 110, which eliminated criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of illicit drugs — will be repealed under the new law. Instead, a person with small amounts of illicit drugs will face a new “drug enforcement misdemeanor." The American Pharmacists Association’s policy arm last year endorsed decriminalization as a public health measure. Decriminalization is the removal of criminal penalties and prison sentences for the simple use and possession of drugs, while not legalizing or authorizing either. 


“A public health approach is to decriminalize possession and use of substances and to avoid a punitive approach, because it hasn't worked. The drug war has failed, and we need other approaches,” said Bratberg, who helped co-author the APhA’s position. In 2020, 58% of voters in Oregon passed a ballot measure to decriminalize possession of small amounts of illicit drugs and invest in treatment and recovery efforts. The law went into effect in 2021. Measure 110 did not legalize drugs, but it removed prison sentences and imposed $100 fines that could be eliminated if users contacted a hotline to undergo addiction screening. In the years since, the measure prevented the arrests of thousands of people, said Kassandra Frederique, the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, a national organization that advocates for the decriminalization of drugs and backed Measure 110. “Research is consistently showing that (for) people who are incarcerated in jails and prisons, overdose has gone up substantially. And the fact that when people leave jails and prisons, the likelihood of overdose deaths also goes up substantially in comparison to the general population,” Frederique said.

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