Decriminalization advocates announced a new plan on Feb. 29 to decriminalize all drugs in Oregon.
According to OPB, this ballot measure, which was financed by the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance, would be a groundbreaking move because Oregon would become the first state to pass such a law. So far, the advocacy group has been hard at work collecting signatures to get the measure placed on the ballot. “By removing harsh criminal penalties, we want to bring people into the light,” said Anthony Johnson, a Portland political consultant who is a chief sponsor of the measure. “We want people to be willing to talk to their friends and families and loved ones and get the treatment they need.”
Also known as Petition 44, this new measure would make all drugs—even heroin and cocaine—punishable with just a mere $100 fine instead of prison time. If a person is caught in possession of these substances, their fee may be waived if they agree to drug treatment. Selling or transporting large amounts of drugs would still be a criminal offense.
The measure would also provide more funding for current drug treatment plans, especially since Oregon doesn’t currently have a solid or reliable funding plan in this regard. It would also use the savings from reduced incarceration rates to further fund drug treatment programs.
So far, treatment advocate Richard Harris who founded Central City Concern in Portland and headed the state’s office of Addictions and Mental Health Services, as well as several other specialists, has stated that he supports the measure. “The reality of it is that the effort to punish people because they have an addiction has always been a misplaced public policy,” Harris said.