PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – A survey of 500 Oregon voters found that 63% of them support bringing back the criminal penalties for drug possession while continuing to use cannabis taxes to fund drug treatment programs. 

In Oregon, criminal penalties for drug possession were changed in February 2021 after the voter-approved Measure 110 went into effect. The measure reclassified personal drug possession to a Class E violation with a maximum $100 fine. 

People caught with user-amounts of controlled substances could get the fine waived by completing a health assessment where they could be connected with treatment, recovery and housing services. However, there is no criminal penalty for people who fail to pay the fee.

Measure 110 also reduced criminal penalties for people found in possession of large amounts of controlled substances, from the felony level to a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 364 days in prison and a fine of up to $6,250. 

The measure also established a program that provides grants to existing agencies or organizations to create Addiction Recovery Centers. These centers provide 24/7 triaging services to determine care needs; behavioral health assessments, including those for substance use disorder screening; intervention planning, case management and connection to services; peer support; and outreach to clients who are unable to access the centers. 

Funding for the centers would come from the Drug Treatment and Recovery Services Fund, which is supported by the amount of money the state saves by reducing drug offense sentencing and arrests, and money from the Oregon Marijuana Fund when it exceeds $11.25 million per quarter. 

Proponents of the bill say by lessening drug-related charges, the state addresses the disproportionate number of Black and Native American people who are convicted for drug possession in Oregon. 

The Oregon Criminal Justice Commission estimated that with the passage of Measure 110, convictions for controlled substances would drop almost 91%. 

Since voters passed the measure, there’s been mixed reaction among the public regarding the changes. 

A survey conducted in April by DHM research, a Portland-based independent research firm that studies the values and priorities that drive public opinion, aimed to gauge how Measure 110 has been received. 

The survey found that a majority of voters surveyed think Measure 110 has been bad for Oregon. More than six in 10 said they believe Measure 110 has made drug addiction, homelessness, and crime worse. 

According to the survey results, older adults were more likely to believe Measure 110 has been bad for Oregon. The results showed 60% of people 65 and older and 54% of people ages 45-64 felt this way, compared to 47% of people ages 30-44 and 37% of people ages 18-29. 

Republicans were also significantly more likely to say Measure 110 has been bad for Oregon. The survey results found 70% of Republicans felt it was bad for the state compared to 36% of Democrats. 

The survey revealed that white people are more likely than people of color to support bringing back criminal penalties for drug possession, 65% compared to 58%. 

When it comes to income, people who make between $100,000 and $150,000 were most likely to support bringing back criminal penalties for drug possession. 

Geographically, people who live in the Willamette Valley outside the Portland metro area were the most likely to say Measure 110 has been bad for Oregon and the most likely to feel the state should bring back criminal penalties for drug possession. 

According to the Oregon Health Authority, during the early implementation of Measure 110, providers served more than 60,000 Oregonians. More than 18,000 Oregonians were served over the first three months of operation, from June 1 through Sept. 30, while the service networks were still being established statewide. 

An earlier round of Measure 110-related funding called Access to Care grants reached more than 42,000 people who received substance use disorder treatment and additional support. 

“These preliminary reports show that local programs are putting Measure 110 funds to use and giving people who are using drugs access to life-saving treatment, harm reduction, housing and other supports,” said OHA Director James Schroeder. “While these are still early and partial reports, Measure 110 services are beginning to ramp up across the state. We’ll continue to share these progress reports each quarter.”

OHA said in February that Behavioral Health Resource Networks now exist in every Oregon county and that over the next year, as the service networks are fully realized, state investments will shift toward maintaining treatment services and supports, which will provide a more comprehensive assessment of Measure 110’s effectiveness.