Oregon Governor Approves Bill to Recriminalize Drug Possession

Oregon Governor Approves Bill to Recriminalize Drug Possession

SALEM, Oregon (AP) – The first-ever nationwide experiment in decriminalization was brought to an abrupt stop by Democratic Governor of Oregon Tina Kotek on Monday when she signed a bill that reinstates the prohibition of small-scale drug possession. The bill’s execution was delayed.

By making “personal use” possession a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail, the new law reverses a 2020 referendum voted by the majority.

By urging law enforcement organizations to develop deflection programs that would direct individuals toward addiction and mental health treatments rather than the criminal justice system, it also builds the framework for treatment to be provided as an alternative to criminal sanctions.

Oregon Governor Approves Bill to Recriminalize Drug Possession (1)

Kotek, characterizing the local mental health providers as “necessary partners to achieve the vision for this legislation,” stated in a signing letter that the law’s success will hinge on “deep coordination” between judges, police, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and others.

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The personal use of illegal substances like heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine is now only penalized by a citation and a maximum punishment of $100, thanks to Measure 110, which was adopted by voters in 2020 with 58% of the vote. The decades-long strategy of arresting people for drug possession and use, according to supporters, hasn’t worked and therapy is a more effective means of helping people overcome addiction than incarceration.

According to the law, addiction programs would get hundreds of millions of dollars from the state’s cannabis tax income.

Oregon Governor Approves Bill to Recriminalize Drug Possession (2)

Nevertheless, state auditors discovered that the funds were reluctant to leave the building and that health authorities, already battling the COVID-19 outbreak, had difficulty setting up the new treatment system. Around the same period, a rise in fatal overdoses was initiated by the fentanyl problem.

Republicans in Oregon have changed their minds about decriminalization policy in the last few months due to these factors.

At this year’s brief legislative session, some of the measure’s past supporters cast ballots in favor of the new legislation. Last month, the Democratic-controlled Legislature enacted the proposal against the opposition of other Democratic MPs who were worried that it would increase the number of arrests and worsen social gaps.

Changes to Measure 110 had long been sought after by GOP leaders. The bill, according to House Minority Leader Jeff Helfrich, “stood united and forced Democrats” to reinstate criminal sanctions, following Kotek’s signing.

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