Oregon’s new law decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of street drugs takes effect Feb. 1, 2021.
That’s also the date when the Oregon Health Authority is required to have appointed members for the oversight and accountability council that will evaluate which substance abuse programs statewide will get funding.
That panel is required to start distributing money by Oct. 1 under Measure 110, which voters approved this month. The money comes from state marijuana sales tax revenue and will go into a fund.
By Dec. 31, 2022, the Oregon Secretary of State must conduct financial and performance audits regarding the effectiveness of the new fund.
Oregon made history this month by becoming the first state to decriminalize small amounts of heroin and other street drugs.
The measure has three key components:
– It reduces misdemeanor drug possession to a non-criminal violation on par with a traffic offense. People with small amounts of drugs including heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, ecstasy, LSD, psilocybin, methadone and oxycodone will get a ticket and face a $100 fine or have the option of being screened for a substance abuse disorder.
– It reduces penalties for what are now felony drug possession cases, which involve larger quantities. Under Measure 110, most of those offenses will be misdemeanors.
– It funnels millions in marijuana tax revenue toward what it calls Addiction Recovery Centers, where people can be screened and directed to treatment options. Those tax dollars will also go to a Drug Treatment and Recovery Services Fund overseen by the state that could be used to pay for treatment, housing or other programs designed to address addiction. The committee appointed by the Oregon Health Authority will oversee the distribution of the funding.
State Senate President Peter Courtney told The Oregonian/OregonLive in an interview after the election that the Legislature will play a role in the rollout of the new law. He said he expects lawmakers will consider the policy’s financial implications and how to provide meaningful intervention for people in the throes of addiction. He said he expects lawmakers to take up the policy over the next two sessions.
Anthony Johnson, a key proponent of the measure, said lawmakers doesn’t need to weigh in for the new policy to go into effect.
“Nothing in the measure forces the Legislature to get involved,” he said.
Meanwhile, prosecutors in the region are assessing how they will handle drug possession cases between now and Feb. 1. The Clackamas County District Attorney’s Office notified police officials last week that it would stop charging new cases that fall under the new law. The office will treat as violations drug possession cases filed before the election.
“It is our belief that having officers investigate and submit cases for a prosecution in the weeks leading up to February 1, which will not lead to any sanction or court supervised treatment, is not the most effective use of criminal justice resources,” Chief Deputy Chris Owen wrote to police officials.
Brent Weisberg, a spokesman for the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office, said the office “continues to review and plan for the implementation of Measure 110,” including how to handle pending cases.
— Noelle Crombie; [email protected]; 503-276-7184; @noellecrombie
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