Oregon Makes U-Turn on Hard Drugs Policy

Stephen Andrews
09 Apr 2024

Back in 2020, almost 60% of Oregon voters approved a bill on the ballot that ended drug decriminalization. Known as Measure 110, the legislation permitted the possession of small amounts of illegal hard drugs and was designed to direct addicts to rehab programs instead of prison. But that would no longer be the case in the future.

The Beaver State boldly experimented with its recreational drugs law. For more than three years, the possession of illicit substances such as heroin, cocaine and meth was punishable with only a ticket and a symbolic fine of $100. But Oregon’s authorities are now turning back the clock. 

Earlier this month, Governor Tina Kotek signed House Bill 4002, which reintroduces criminal punishment for hard drugs. The bill was previously approved by both Oregon’s Senate and House. 

The overturn followed after concerns grew that the first-of-its-kind drug decriminalization law did more damage than good for drug users and addicts. 

In 2023, Oregon jumped to the 17th place on the list of states with highest drug-related deaths. Stats show that there are 30 fentanyl overdose deaths for every 100,000 Oregonians. Before that, Oregon was on the 36th place on the list out of 39 states that report on fentanyl overdose cases. 

Experts believe that the jump is too big and it happened during the state’s experimental drug law, prompting authorities to call it a day with the legislation. 

It also looks like Oregonians have changed their minds on the drug decriminalization law. If almost 60% of voters said yes on the ballot for Measure 110, a poll from last year reveals that 56% did not approve the regulation. 

Class E Violations, which were introduced with Measure 110 to remove criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of drugs, will no longer be effective as of Sept. 1 under the new legislation. Getting caught with any amount of hard drugs will be treated as “misdemeanor.”

Punishment for personal use possession may now result in up to six month jail. Police are also allowed to confiscate and crack down use of drugs in public areas such as parks and sidewalks. 

While opponents of HB 4002 say that the revised legislation will create a police state out of Oregon, the bill still seeks to maintain “deflection programs” where convicts can be offered rehab treatment as an alternative to jail. 

Gov. Kotek said that the new law will encourage law enforcement to prioritize “pre-arrest deflection,” and try to divert people to addiction and mental health services instead of the criminal justice system. 

“Implementation of House Bill 4002 will be complex, but committing to clarity and coordination is one way to improve its likelihood of long-term success,” the governor said in a letter. “I direct the Criminal Justice Commission to leverage their full authority for deflection programs to use a standardized certification document that is easily identifiable as evidence of a person’s successful completion.”

Drug recriminalization will take effect in Oregon starting September 1.

Also read on Soft Secrets:

Oregon Governor Issues Weed Pardons

UN Report Calls for Major Drug Policy Shift

Future Drug Screening Won’t Include Marijuana

Stephen Andrews