Oregon Lawmakers Voted to Recriminalize Drugs, Now In The Hands of the Governor

Source: LGBTQ Victory Fund

Oregon, which was once leading the way towards decriminalization of drugs, seems to have hit a snag. Lawmakers in the state have voted to recriminalize drugs, and the legislation now lies in the hands of the governor. Let’s see how likely it is that Oregon will make its drugs illegal again.

A Sweeping Bill Could Have Changed Things

Oregon has always been a leader in forward-thinking drug policies. It was one of the first states in the US to decriminalize marijuana as a recreational drug.

Source: Flickr/Jason McHuff

The newest decriminalization bill sought to ensure that small amounts of all drugs for personal use could similarly be decriminalized. However, things have changed.

Lawmakers Backpedaling On The Policy

The policy was slated to be the first in the country, allowing for the state to focus more on prosecuting dealers as opposed to users of the substances. Unfortunately, the law may have to be changed.

Source: Flickr/Oregon Department of Agriculture

Lawmakers are furiously retooling the bill because of the recent fentanyl crisis. Lawmakers state that they’re looking at a middle-of-the-road compromise to keep people safe.

What Were They Thinking?

Many people might see this as a huge problem. As many people who opposed the decriminalization of marijuana would have noted, making drugs illegal may exacerbate problems.

Source: Flickr/ Marco Bellucci

However, there is a precedent for this sort of approach. Decriminalization would help law enforcement and would allow for an easier way for those suffering from substance abuse to seek help.

The Governor Is The Key

After the new bill, which recriminalized drug possession, passed the lawmakers, it went to Governor Tina Kotek. Governor Kotek has stated that the bill hasn’t gotten to her office yet, but she will consider it when it does.

Source: Flickr/ Karl Palutke

She states that the bill will likely have the outcomes the state needs. She also says that she is committed to moving the bill forward, meaning that Oregon may once again have illegal drugs.

Not a Political Football

Governor Kotek said that she didn’t believe that addiction and recovery should be used as a political football. The approach of decriminalizing drugs was partially aimed at helping people get the addiction treatment they need.

Source: Flickr/ GaryMcCormick35781

The Governor noted that the lawmakers made laws and didn’t consider what they were potentially doing. She stated that they had the responsibility to the people to understand what they were doing before they did it.

A Setback For Social Justice

Many social justice groups decried the bill as a setback for their cause. They said that the new bill seemed to pay more attention to complaints from police rather than those from communities of people of color.

Source: Flickr/ Olivier Cremers

The previous bill, Measure 110, decriminalized the ownership of small quantities of cocaine, methamphetamines, and heroin, among other things. Treatment is better than putting addicted individuals in jail, supporters of the measure said.

Dealing With Multiple Crises

Measure 110 saw much of the state’s revenue from cannabis legislation go towards providing addiction recovery services. Unfortunately, the state was also dealing with the COVID-19 crisis at that time.

Source: Flickr/ Krysten Newby

Money was slow to go out the door, and health authorities struggled to get the system up and running. The final blow that floored the legislation was an increase in fentanyl overdose deaths.

Inconclusive Data Leaves Some Wondering

Some researchers are quick to point out that the increase in fentanyl deaths may not be linked to the passing of Measure 110. However, their argument is based on inconclusive data.

Source: Flickr/ Carl Boettiger

There’s a possibility that the free availability of these drugs could have led to an increase in deaths. Other factors at play may not show up in the statistics, making it impossible to state conclusively what the cause is.

Amend Or Repeal Are The Options

Republicans were quick to seize on the fentanyl overdose deaths to ask lawmakers to amend or repeal the legislation. The connection between the deaths and law was tenuous, but they held onto it anyway.

Source: Flickr/ Blogtrepreneur

Republican politicians introduced a ballot measure to force the administration to address the situation. Public pressure forced Democrats to amend their position, and the new law was crafted to deal with the fallout.

Social Inequalities May Rise

Despite the wave of Democrats shifting towards recriminalizing drugs, a handful of politicians remained adamant that the initial approach to the law was the right way to do so.

Source: Flickr/ M. Jeremy Goldman

They recognized that recriminalizing these drugs would lead to severe inequality in many communities and could lead to more arrests and convictions in affected neighborhoods, which would slow down the justice system.

Personal Possession Now a Jailable Offense

Under the new law, possession of small volumes of the previously mentioned drugs could still lead to a six-month prison sentence. Police intend to use the law to crack down on dealing in public places.

Source: Flickr/ Dan Lipsitz

The new bill also looks at treatment as an alternative for those who are arrested for possession. However, it doesn’t require treatment as a sentence, leaving it up to the individual to choose.

May Not Help The Addiction Problem

Legislators noted that counties don’t need to offer these deflection options to individuals who are arrested for possession. It’s entirely up to the county whether it’s an option for those convicted of possession.

Source: Flickr/ kphotographer

Those who are held for possession might not even be able to get the help they need to leave their addiction behind.

Other Problems Will Persist

Recreational drug use is still frowned upon by society. However, when an Oregonian is arrested for possession, it will show up on their permanent record.

Source: Flickr/guineapig33

Having drug possession as a charge could make it much harder for them to find a job. Many businesses conduct background checks on their future employees, and possessing a small amount could exclude someone from employment.

It Has Worked Before

Decriminalization of drugs isn’t a new approach to dealing with a severe drug problem. Countries like Portugal have successfully implemented decriminalization legislation that makes it easier for those who suffer from substance abuse to get the help they need.

Source: Flickr/ Images Money

However, what works in one play may not necessarily work in another. Oregon may need to look at its available options to find ones that address their current situation and help those needing the help promptly.

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Sally Reed

Written by Sally Reed

Sally, a dynamic and viral writer, has taken the literary world by storm with her exceptional storytelling prowess. With an uncanny ability to tap into the collective consciousness of her readers, she crafts narratives that resonate deeply and linger long after the last word is read.

Born with a creative spirit, Sally honed her writing skills from a young age, cultivating a unique voice that blends emotion, wit, and social insight. Her work spans a wide spectrum, from poignant short stories that tug at the heartstrings to thought-provoking essays that challenge conventional thinking.

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