The country’s drug decriminalization was a model for Oregon’s controversial Measure 110, and those who attended the trip say they have come to a clear agreement: Give people struggling with addiction places to detox and get treatment.
They also say that Oregon should give law enforcement the tools to nudge people to treatment without recriminalizing drugs and repealing Measure 110.
“Portugal is much more advanced in how much treatment and access to treatment they have when they decriminalized, and we desperately need to make sure that we continue to build out our treatment systems,” Sen. Kate Lieber, (D-Beaverton) said.
But Rep. Lily Morgan (R-Grants Pass) said Measure 110 needs to bring back accountability.
“We still want access to treatment but the lack of accountability or incentive to get treatment is killing people on our streets,” she said.
However, Morgan also noted that Portugal is not dealing with the same drugs as Oregon.
“They have been dealing with what had been a heroin crisis and dealing with the heroin epidemic but they have not dealt with fentanyl at all, and so we are dealing with a more acute crisis,” she said.
But despite their differences, Aaron Schmautz with the Portland Police Association said Portugal’s system still comes with its faults.
“We read about how things are not going very well there, there are articles people referred to. It’s just not that simple,” he said. “It’s a country dealing with a lot of the same issues we are.”
In fact, officials who took the trip say they met people who were disappointed when it would take a week for someone to get treatment. Meanwhile, Rep. Rob Nosse (D-Portland) said people in Oregon’s system often have to wait months.
Schmautz said having more peers available to those suffering from drug addiction could be an asset to the Portland Police Bureau.
“Having treatment people available with the police when they are with people who are struggling can say, ‘Hey, we could go to jail, but here is a treatment person, and you don’t have to go with me,’” he said.
Even so, Schmautz also said drug decriminalization in Oregon shouldn’t have relied on a singular legislative change.
“Their process was about 80 bills, a two year process, a lot of work to make sure they had the treatment in place. I think it was a cautionary tale to make sure that if you are going to carry out a new plan, you want to make sure that you have all these things in place to make sure the system doesn’t break,” he said.
However, Representative Rob Nosse (D-Portland) is confident the legislature can take on the law enforcement aspect of Oregon’s drug crisis.
“It was very clear to me that the law enforcement leaders that were before us do not just want to put people in jail, they’re not interested in decriminalizing,” Nosse said. “What they do need…is the ability to deal with public use and the ability to confiscate drugs, and I feel fairly confident that the legislature will unite around those topics at a bare minimum.”