PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portugal’s decriminalization of drugs for years brought lower overdose rates and more people in treatment was a model for Measure 110 in Oregon.

However, in the three years of Oregon’s experiment with decriminalization, the result has been almost the exact opposite. Now, the Health Justice Recovery Alliance, the organization that backed Measure 110, is buying a trip for elected leaders and law enforcement to go to the European nation.

Portugal’s experience with decriminalization has been talked about nearly as long as those laws have been in place, even as the nation has recently struggled with more people using once-illegal substances.

There are key differences that have been well reported between Portugal and Measure 110, which allows someone to avoid a $100 fine if they call a treatment number. Portugal has noncriminal penalties such as revoking passports and licenses, and at least until the last few years, Portugal has had much readier access to treatment and recovery services — Oregon ranks last in the nation for addiction services.

“We’re 50th in the nation in access to services and second in addiction rates. We should be taking all the advice we can get,” said Tera Hurst, the executive director of HJRA. “We have been stuck in Oregon trying to solve this problem and we’re not solving the problem.

The HJRA invited one of Measure 110’s loudest critics, Grant Pass Republican Representative Lily Morgan, who confirmed that she has accepted the invite.

“I do want to see what Portugal did differently. I want to make sure to see what is working (and) what is not,” she said. “I want to make sure that whatever said over there, there’s accountability for when we come back.”

Democrat Kate Lieber told KOIN 6 News she will also be going on the trip.

“I have a lot of questions about accountability in Portugal’s public health response to addiction and how we can create more accountability in Oregon’s system. Getting these answers firsthand is important,” she said.

Here are other local officials and justice reform advocates who have been invited on the trip, which will be from Oct. 30 through Nov. 3.

  • Rep. Rob Nosse (accepted)
  • Rep. Jason Kropf
  • Rep. Rayfield Staff
  • Sen. Floyd Prozanski (accepted)
  • Sen. Rob Wagner
  • Sgt. Aaron Smauchtz, President, Portland Police Association (accepted)
  • Detective Scotty Nowning, President, Salem Police Association (accepted)
  • Kimberly McCullough, Oregon Department of Justice (accepted)
  • Mult. Co. DA Mike Schmidt (accepted)
  • Mult. Co. Chair Jessica Vega Pederson (accepted)
  • Monta Knudson, Bridges to Change (accepted)
  • Haven Wheelock (accepted)
  • Shannon Olive, WomenFirst Transition & Referral Center (accepted)
  • Mercedes Elizalde, Latino Network (accepted)
  • Janie Gullickson, Mental Health & Addiction Association of Oregon (accepted)
  • Paul Solomon (accepted)
  • Fernando Peña, Northwest Instituto Latino (accepted)
  • Andy Ko, Partnership for Safety & Justice (accepted)
  • Members of the ADPC
  • OHA
  • CJC
  • Governor’s Office

The people going on this trip are getting $2,500 from the HJRA to pay for airfare, lodging and food on this trip.

“This trip is a fact-finding mission. Oregon stakeholders want to see what a fully developed drug decriminalization program looks like. We are eager to know what lessons Portugal has learned throughout this 20+ year process and bring those lessons back to Oregon policy work to strengthen Measure 110. The program has stood the test of time; we want to know more about what led to the program’s success, and what they wish they would have done differently too,” said Devon Downeysmith with HJRA.