The Oregon Drug Addiction and Treatment Act was passed by a voter referendum in November 2020. The Act (Ballot Measure 110), which became effective in January 2021 reduced the penalty for possessing small amounts of illegal drugs to a citation with a fine of up to $100. It provided that the fine could be avoided by completing a health assessment and created a system for getting services and support to drug users to get them to stop using drugs. The Legislature appropriated money from marijuana taxes to fund the assessment support and treatment programs.
In the two plus years since the measure was passed it has proved controversial. While advocates say it is functioning, many others question whether the decriminalization approach is working. Various proposals have surfaced seeking either to repeal or change the provisions of the Measure 1190 program.
Two groups seeking to make changes discussed their plans with the Springfield City Club on Thursday November 16.
Chief Deputy Lane County District Attorney Chris Parisa spoke on behalf of a group of district attorneys, chiefs of police, sheriffs, and the League of Oregon Cities about an eleven-step proposal to adopt legislation which, he said, would reverse some of the excesses and mistakes made in Measure 110.
Paige Richardson, owner of Springwater Partners, a consulting firm providing public affairs and political advice spoke of behalf of the Coalition To Fix and Improve Ballot Measure 110, which is preparing one or more ballot initiatives to put before the voters in November of this year, if the Legislature does not take appropriate action.
Mr. Parosa and Ms. Richardson agreed that new ballot measures are not the preferred way to address the issues they see with the novel approach incorporated in Measure 110. But they noted that the upcoming session of the legislature is a “short” session, limited to 35 days, and they expressed concern that the legislature would succeed in efforts to adopt changes. Since ballot measures may only be adopted in even-numbered years, those they represent have concluded that the need is so urgent that they must be ready to get something on the 2024 ballot if the legislature does not act.
The goal of each effort is to “fulfill the promise of Measure 110 – deliver more treatment, more quickly, to more people.”
The 11 step proposal supported by Mr. Parosa, which Ms. Richardson says her group would support, includes the following elements:
- Reclassifying possession of controlled substances as a Class A misdemeanor. Formerly this was a Class C felony).
- A fix to a court decision which effectively gutted the statue which made delivery of a controlled substance a crime.
- Modify Senate Bill 48 which tried to end pretrial detention by developing a system which would allow sheriffs and the District Attorney to hold those accused of drug crimes pretrial.
- Provide funding to county probation services and allow probation officers to mandate those accessed of drug offenses into treatment.
- Create a new Class A Misdemeanor for use of a controlled substance in public. Establish a program to allow for diversion of those accused into a treatment program in lieu of prosecution.
- Create a new Class A Misdemeanor for use of a controlled substance in an enclosed space. (This is based on statistics which say that a large majority of transit vehicles test positive for evidence of drug use on their vehicles or in the air of the vehicles.
- Prioritize adequate e sustainable funding for specialty courts. (Mr. Parosa said that treatment courts had proven especially productive in dealing with specific sorts of crimes.)
- Allow for use of “welfare holds” up to 72 hours where a person may be placed in short term custody upon arrest if are intoxicated or demonstrate mental health problems. At the end of that time the person accused could be offered an opportunity to go into treatment or be released.
- Create adequate detox and stabilization capacity across the state.
- Support creation of an opioid overdose quick response system.
- Align requirements for siting of treatment facilities with the requirements of the federal Fair Housing Act.
While both speakers said they supported the intent of those who voted for Measure 1210, they argued that the measure, which they said was funded by those outside of Oregon, failed to recognize the reality that Oregon is one of the highest addicted areas in the country while being dead last in the services provided. While voluntary treatment, they said, as contemplated by Measure 100, is well intended, the people who supported it are wrong about how drug addicted persons act.
When asked about the impact that recriminalization might have on the justice system, Mr. Parosa acknowledged that it might put an additional strain on the ability to prosecute offenders but, he argued, the thrust of the proposals is not to convict people, but to find ways to effectively get them to accept treatment and, thereby, be diverted from the criminal justice system. If they are successful, he said, the prosecutors and public defenders would be able to accommodate any increased burden.
Ms. Richardson said they are not attacking either the proponents of the supporters of Measure 110. She said that the measure was brought forward by the Drug Policy Alliance, a national group seeking the legalization of all drugs. The groups behind Mr. Parosa and Ms. Richardson’s efforts believe that the pillars of an effective drug policy include prevention, enforcement treatment, and harm reduction. While Measure 110 tries to accomplish the latter two goals, they believe that there are unintended consequence of the measure and that expectations for its success were far too high, particularly given that there was only a 90-day period to prepare for implementation, a time frame simply not adequate. They do not believe that the current problems are simply an implementation ”hiccup” but rather a failure to recognize what is needed to bring the current crisis under control.
To view the entire program on You Tube click Measure 110.
City Club is working to arrange programs offering alternative perspectives from supporters of the Measure 110 effort and service providers.