PORTLAND, Ore (KOIN) — Fifty years after the War On Drugs began in the 1970s, Oregon voters decided on an alternative path: decriminalization for user-amounts of illicit substances and accompanying recovery treatment options instead of jail time.
Oregonians have approved Measure 110, which decriminalizes possession of small amounts of heroin, cocaine, LSD, oxycodone and some other drugs, according to the Associated Press.
The approved measure makes Oregon the first state in the nation to decriminalize hard drugs, along with the legalization of therapeutic use of psilocybin mushrooms.
The initiative will reclassify personal drug possession to a Class E violation with a maximum $100 fine. It does not affect people selling or manufacturing illegal drugs. People caught with user-amounts of drugs could get the fine waived by completing a health assessment, during which they could be connected with treatment, recovery and housing services. Those services would also be expanded under Measure 110 and funded with a large chunk of marijuana tax revenue.
Janie Gullickson, one of the chief petitioners, spent 22 years addicted to methamphetamine, beginning early in her teenage years. Despite coming from a relatively privileged background, her drug-use spiraled out of control.
“We’re so happy to take this step forward. Thank you, Oregon voters!” said Gullickson, who is Executive Director of the Mental Health and Addiction Association of Oregon, in a written statement to KOIN 6 News. “With so many lives touched by addiction and our state’s failure up to this point to properly deal with the crisis, voters proved they are eager stop ruining lives and start saving them.”
In addition, the Yes on 110 campaign stated that now that the measure has passed, Oregon will see racial disparities in drug arrests drop by 95%, according to projections from the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission.
“For years, Oregonians’ lives have been devastated by our backward, punishment-driven drug laws, which have disproportionately impacted people of color, immigrants, refugees, and working-class folks,” said Kayse Jama, Executive Director of Unite Oregon. “The passage of Measure 110 means that Oregonians will have access to high-quality, culturally-responsive drug treatment, without destroying people’s lives through arrests or incarceration”
Not everyone was enthused with the idea of drug decriminalization.
“Measure 110 is an idea that on the surface might sound appealing or compelling, but when you look into it, it’s a very dangerous measure,” Washington County District Attorney Kevin Barton told KOIN 6 News.
While Barton agrees the current system is far from perfect, he says making treatment voluntary is not the way to go.
This is one of 4 statewide ballot measures Oregon voters approved on Election Day: limiting campaign contributions, increasing cigarette and vaping taxes and legalizing medicinal psilocybin.