SALEM, Ore. — A new Oregon law decriminalizing small quantities of illegal narcotics went into effect on Monday. Voters passed Measure 110 in November, prioritizing options for drug treatment and recovery over prosecution of drug users.
Oregon is now the first state in the U.S. to decriminalize simple possession of virtually all drugs.
The Drug Addiction Treatment & Recovery Act decriminalizes possession of some amounts of controlled substances by adults and juveniles including: heroin (1 gram or less), cocaine (2 grams or less), methamphetamine (2 grams or less), MDMA (less than 1 gram or 5 pills), LSD (less than 40 user units), psilocybin (less than 12 grams), methadone (less than 40 user units) and oxycodone (less than 40 pills, tablets, or capsules).
Instead, these crimes become a "Class E" violation, resulting in a maximum penalty of a $100 fine or completion of a health assessment with an addiction treatment professional.
The new law does not decriminalize drug trafficking, driving under the influence, or the kinds of property or violent crimes that can accompany drug addiction — these crimes will remain punishable with the same potential penalties as before.
“Treating drug use like a crime has created suffering that spans generations. We have lost too many loved ones because they didn’t have access to the health services they desperately needed,” said Tera Hurst, Executive Director of the new Health Justice Recovery Alliance, a statewide advocacy coalition.
Alongside decriminalization, February 1 marks the beginning of a new 24/7 hotline that people caught in possession of small quantities of drugs can call as an alternative to receiving the fine. Callers will receive a social services needs assessment to connect them with specific recovery services based on their needs.
“Oregon’s new law is transformational. voters overwhelmingly agree that we must treat Substance Use Disorder as a public health crisis, not a crime. Today we take that first step,” Hurst said.
Supporters of the law say that it will help to dismantle racial disparities in drug arrests and convictions.
In the run-up to the November election, opponents of Measure 110 — including former Governor John Kitzhaber — criticized the initiative, in part because it could leave parents in the dark if minors are caught in possession of drugs. Others worried that the measure did not invest enough in recovery or treatment programs.
The Oregon Health Authority confirmed on Monday that it has appointed 21 members to serve on a new Oversight and Accountability Council for Measure 110's implementation.
A new Treatment and Recovery Services fund, financed by state cannabis revenues, is also now in effect, for the purpose of building 15 new regional addiction recovery centers in the state. The 24/7 hotline serves as a temporary solution, connecting callers to existing programs, until the new centers are operational.
“We are proud of the fact that we met these requirements on time, and that the new law will help us establish a more health-based, equitable and effective approach to drug addiction in Oregon,” said OHA Behavioral Health Director Steve Allen.
NewsWatch 12 is digging further into this new law and the changes that begin locally on Monday.