JACKSON COUNTY, Ore. -- Oregon advocacy groups and the Jackson County Sheriff's Office are speaking out on Measure 110, which went into effect today.
Oregon voters passed Measure 110 last November, making the state the first to decriminalize small amounts of drug possession.
Measure 110 focuses on a health-based, treatment-over-punishment approach to dealing with drug possession, and will allow people to pay a fine or have it waived by participating in an addiction recovery program. Those treatment centers will be funded by revenue from legalized marijuana.
Jackson County Sheriff Nate Sickler says they want to be good partners with l treatment providers and mental health professionals. However, he's worried about the availability of treatment.
“Oregon already struggles with the availability of treatments compared to the rest of the nation, and now we're potentially, you know, opening the door for more people to use or abuse, drugs, and move into our region," Sickler said.
Another concern is that people might try to take advantage of the law, which creates more problems rather than solutions.
“Our biggest thing that we see associated with drug use and addiction is property crime and violent crime,” Sickler said. "People who are addicted, who have issues, they are going to seek Oregon out as an area that will be more friendly to them in their habit than other places."
Selling and manufacturing drugs remains illegal, and Sickler says the county’s drug teams will be busy watching out for perpetrators.
Sickler says their first priority is keeping the community safe.
“We're working as a group, our criminal justice system is going to work together as we always do on all issues to try to find the best way to keep our community safe," Sickler said.
The Oregon Health Justice Recovery Alliance has a different view on Measure 110, and say the law will tackle the stigma around addiction and substance use.
Executive director Tera Hurst says that being able to switch from a criminal repsonse to health response is transformational.
She says the war on drugs has especially impacted communities of color, and the decriminalization of small possessions of drugs will decrease the over-representation for those communities by 94%.
“That's a huge piece of why this measure is so critical," Hurst said. "You know, what these arrests do to people on the ground is really create barriers for housing and jobs. And then not to mention the stigma that really goes over that. We're talking about health care and we're talking about the realities are that addiction and substance use is usually linked to a health crisis, not a criminal crisis.”
Hurst says throwing people in jail isn’t the solution.
"We're trying to change a system that is incredibly broken, and so there's always going to be concerns," Hurst said. "I think that that's natural and that's okay. The problem was stoking and fanning flames. As we've seen, especially over the last few years, is that people then all of a sudden start living in fear."
She says the Oregon Health Justice Recovery Alliance remains committed to making sure people have the providers they need.
"It's our job to relate and tell the story of what's been happening, why it hasn't been working and how we want to see this move forward. We want to make sure that the communities most impacted by the war on drugs are really seeing the investments and the benefits and just trying to work through the trauma that has really been imposed on these communities," Hurst said.