Oregon’s ballot decision to decriminalize the personal possession of all drugs, including heroin and cocaine “offers a glimmer of hope for those interested in significant criminal justice changes,” says The Intercept. The success of Measure 110 is a rebuke to the notion that any person who uses illegalized drugs, no matter what the substance, is best served by an interaction with the police and prison system. “This is part of how we reform policing: by getting them out of the drug business,” says Brooklyn College sociology Prof. Alex Vitale, author of “The End of Policing,” on Twitter. Vitale cited the four states that voted to legalize recreational marijuana, adding that “Measure 110 in Oregon is even better.” Oregon’s measure should not be confused with legalization. It entails removal of criminal penalties for the possession of small amounts of illegal substances. After February 1, the penalty for drug possession will resemble a hefty traffic ticket: a $100 fine. Those who cannot pay can agree to a “health assessment” at an addiction recovery center.
The measure includes expansion of access to recovery treatments, housing, and harm reduction services, to be funded through the reallocation of tens of millions of dollars from Oregon’s cannabis tax. Money saved by not arresting, prosecuting, and caging people found with drugs will be redirected to a fund for treatment services. Measure 110 would reduce convictions for drug possession by nearly 90 percent: from 4,057 in 2019 to an estimated 378 in the coming year, says the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission. The agency says racial disparities in drug arrests could drop by 95 percent. The decriminalization campaign had strong endorsements from the state’s medical and health care communities, which have observed the failure of the status quo to help victims of the opioid epidemic. According to the Measure 110 campaign, one in 10 Oregonians struggle with substance use.