Oregon lawmakers reverse course on legalization of hard drugs after overdose deaths skyrocket

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SALEM, OR - The Oregon House passed bill 4002 last week that will once again make the possession of hard drugs a crime, reversing what many called an ill-advised decision in 2020 to decriminalize possession of small amounts of drugs. That decision was carried out under a ballot initiative approved by Oregon voters. 

The reversal of course was spurred by a surge in deaths from opioids, including those of children, which has been fueled in part by the proliferation of fentanyl, the AP reports

KATU reports the change results from a compromise between Republicans and Democrats. The new measure establishes a misdemeanor that could lead to differing imprisonment levels and allows individual counties to decide between treatment or criminal charges. 

The bill was supported by law enforcement and district attorneys, while public defenders said they didn’t believe there were enough attorneys to represent people charged with drug offenses. 

The bill didn’t wholly satisfy lawmakers from either party, with Republicans complaining it didn’t go far enough, while progressive Democrats claim it would disproportionately affect minorities. 

While the bill had bipartisan support, there were clearly intra-party divisions over the measure. 

“I think this bill takes a step forward in reimagining what our criminal justice system can be, and, I think, as we watch this unfold, by sincerest hope is that we will be back making not only improvements but perhaps expanding what we’ve done here today,” said Democrat State Sen. Kate Lieber. 

Conversely, State Sen. James Manning voted against the bill. 

‘I voted no because [the] simple fact is we cannot lock people up for self-harm. We cannot lock people up because they are using drugs on themselves,” Manning complained. “I do agree that those who are out there peddling must face harsher punishment for peddling poison, but to say we’re going to treat you by locking you up is not rehabilitation.” 

Senate Republican Leader Tim Knopp, however, had a different point of view. 

“We believe that it [decriminalization] was an experiment that helped kill many Oregonians, and the Oregon legislature reversed that policy,” Knopp said. “I think we voted the will of the people of Oregon who believe they were sold a bill of goods on Measure 110.” 

Knopp hopes Oregon’s move will lead to a reversal in other states where some are trying to decriminalize drugs. 

Before approving the bill, Oregon legislators appropriated $211 million to various behavioral health and addiction services and some “deflection” programs. 

If the bill is signed into law, it would take effect immediately, however, the new criminal charges would not take effect until Sept. 1 to give the Oregon Justice Department time to prepare for the new measure. 

Gov. Tina Kotek hasn’t said whether she would sign the bill. However, her office offered the following statement: 

“It would have to pass the balancing test of concrete, measurable, improved outcomes for individuals who are struggling with addiction and accountability. This will be the lens she reviews the bill with when it comes to her desk.” 

The AP reported that according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Oregon had the highest increase in synthetic opioid overdose fatalities between 2019 and the 12-month period that ended last June 30, a multiple of thirteen times from 84 deaths to over 1,100. 

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Comments

Karen

Who ever thought this was a good idea? Geeeez

Lynn

I suspect it was the people that are determined to destroy this nation. It's happening on so many levels now. The Adversary has been patiently plotting.

Michael

"reversing what many called an ill-advised decision in 2020". As government moves, this was a pretty quick turnaround. Guess they finally discovered what true wisdom & common sense indicated 4 years ago. Goes to "don't let these clowns anywhere near levers of power."

Steve

You should actually look at the bill. Such bullshit. Although they are calling it a reversal there isn’t much of a change. Not emough to help this out of control situation.

DS

EVERYONE of the leaders in that state ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THOSE DEATHS !

DS

A real Quick way to MURDER drug users... ANY elected representative that voted for this should be INDICTED and sent to Prison.

Richard

"Experiments" poorly thought out by liberals killed these people. Our Constitution says "to protect' our citizens, but liberals cannot see the light between "killing and protecting!" You should have seen these deaths coming with common sense.

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