PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — Both Democrats and Republicans on a new committee say they are serious about proposing action for the 2024 Legislature about ensuring treatment for drug addiction and safety from drug trafficking and public use.

They made their comments as the new committee met for the first time on Wednesday, Oct. 18.

Legislative leaders say its focus is broader than a 2020 ballot initiative, known as Measure 110, that removed criminal penalties for possession of specified amounts of some drugs and shifted state taxes from retail cannabis sales into treatment programs. But its critics argue that it created or worsened open use and abuse of drugs such as fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that is deadly even in small amounts — and that a $100 fine that can be waived is neither a deterrent to use or an incentive to seek treatment.

“It is clear that the ballot measure that Oregonians passed in 2020 is not delivering what we need it to deliver,” said Sen. Kate Lieber, a Democrat from Beaverton and the committee co-leader. “We need to make systemwide changes to try to address this issue. We need to treat this issue as the emergency it is.”

Lieber, who is also Senate majority leader, added: “We are here today because the current state of the drug crisis in Oregon is unacceptable. People do not feel safe on the streets. Oregonians are not getting the addiction treatment they need when they need it. We are grappling with cheap, deadly fentanyl that has hit our streets in the past three or four years in a big way. It has taken over from black-tar heroin as the main drug. It is something that all of the country is grappling with. We have recent court decisions that have made it more difficult for us to get drug dealers off the street.”

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