To boldly go

Amidst all the dramatic developments of the last 24 hours, Oregon voters passed Measure 110, which decriminalizes possession of certain amounts of street drugs. Marijuana, of course, has been perfectly legal here for a while now. But when the new state law kicks in, you can be holding 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), and if you're busted, all you get is a minor ticket. The fine is $100, and you're not automatically precluded from getting a professional license.

I voted against this, because along with decriminalization, there ought to be a serious financial commitment to expanded treatment for addiction, and the money for such an undertaking isn't there. They're saying they'll take some funds from pot taxes, but that isn't going to be hardly enough. 

Plus, the thresholds for heavier penalties are awfully high. Thirty-nine tabs of acid or methadone is not a small amount. Do we really want to give just a cheap ticket to some guy caught holding that much outside the high school fence?

Anyway, it passed. So now where are we?

Well, we're in the same awkward place we were with marijuana, only worse. Possession of all these drugs is still a felony under federal law. And although the feds have looked the other way about pot, I'm not at all sure that they will do the same with hard drugs. Our law-and-order U.S. attorney has no qualms about second-guessing the local district attorney, in whose office he used to work. That U.S. attorney even deputizes Portland cops from time to time, in order to bring federal charges where local prosecution is declined.

The longer I observe our federal system of government, the less sense it makes. Here's another example.

The principle behind Measure 110 is a good one, but implementation of the actual measure we voted for? It's going to be a bumpy road at best. 


  1. Agreed. Here are some other points that should be considered when evaluating this measure:
    -The "treatment" being touted is not treatment. It is a brief assessment which can be done telephonically where the addict is told that they are, in fact, an addict and they should get treatment. It might last 15-30 minutes. Ask any addict who has come out the other side: if the threat of arrest, conviction and jail won't stop an addict from using, getting rid of a $100 fine certainly won't.
    -The measure also forbids formal probation for misdemeanor convictions, meaning there can be no supervision by the probation department and a P.O. can't order the person to treatment.
    -Look for Oregon's fairly robust treatment courts to start taking a hit. Also, I suspect there will now be these pop-up, spin cycle treatment centers that probably won't do much good and this legislation creates no subsidies for beds.
    -It is an incredibly poorly written piece of legislation and there are major holes and inconsistencies, particularly when it comes to fentanyl, which is the most deadly street drug around.
    -The legislation doesn't address the fact that juveniles found using hard drugs will not be referred to the juvenile department for treatment. In fact, there is no requirement that their parents be notified. There will be a more robust approach for a 16 year old using marijuana than one using heroin.
    -Organized and violent cartels supply the vast majority of meth and heroin to Oregon. Oregon is now an even more target rich environment.
    -DUII's will increase.
    -This takes organizing hundreds of municipal courts (and their meager resources) and law enforcement agencies across the state to have a referral/assessment mechanism for these class E violations. The people responsible for implementation are on record saying this needs to be implemented by February 1. They appear to have little to no clue what it will take to provide a consistent method of operation to these organizations, not to mention setting up these assessment centers. They think this will all be done in less than three months. It will be amateur hour.
    -Search and seizure law will undergo a confusing transformation that will be unsettled for many years.

    Our criminal justice system's historical approach to addiction leaves A LOT to be desired, but to say Oregon's approach is broken to the point that it needed this massive and ill-advised over correction is a fallacy. If your "crime" is being an addict and it never impacts anyone but the addict, that is one thing. However, that is rarely the case. Opiate and meth addicts more often than not resort to victimizing others to support their habit (just looks at Portland's property crime rates). Oregon courts routinely give these folks second, third and fourth chances before they finally end up in prison. It's really a naive, pie in the sky notion that getting rid of a $100 fine will get an addict to stop when the threat of arrest and a little time in county jail won't.

    For all of my lecturing, you are right; it passed, so what now? Who knows, but if the language of the initiative is a sign of the wisdom of those in charge of implementing this initiative, I expect bad consequences for our community.

  2. Maybe its just coincidence, but after marijuana was legalized there seemed to be a significant increase in the number of (pick your choice), homeless, houseless, vagrants in the city.


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