Oregon reverses key liberal drug policy after spike in overdose deaths

Oregon reverses key liberal drug policy after spike in overdose deaths

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Oregon lawmakers voted to recriminalize certain drugs after a spike in overdose deaths prompted Portland’s governor to declare a state of emergency over the fentanyl crisis — all but stopping a flagship liberal policy.

In 2020, a measure to decriminalize small amounts of all drugs and redirect much of the state’s marijuana tax revenue to fund addiction service grants was passed into law under Measure 110 on the ballot, with 58% of residents of Oregon approved the measure.

Since then, addiction and overdose deaths have skyrocketed in Oregon and across the country as fentanyl has swept across the country.

A man smokes from a glass pipe on the sidewalk

A man smokes on the sidewalk in Portland, Oregon, on January 10, 2024. (Hannah Rae Lambert/Fox News Digital)


In August, 56 percent of Oregonians said they disapproved of the pioneering drug law, and Republicans and Democrats introduced legislation to repeal the controversial measure.

A bill recriminalizing the possession of small amounts of drugs passed the state Senate 21-8 on Friday after the House passed it 51-7 on Thursday.

The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Tina Kotek, who said in January she was ready to sign a bill that would repeal the decriminalization, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported. Kotek, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Multnomah County Chairwoman Jessica Vega Pederson last month declared a 90-day state of emergency for downtown Portland because of the public health and public safety crisis fueled by fentanyl.

“With this bill, we are doubling down on our commitment to making sure Oregonians have access to the treatment and care they need,” said Senate Democratic Majority Leader Kate Lieber of Portland, one of the bill’s authors, adding, that its passage would “be the beginning of real and transformative change for our justice system.”

President Joe Biden holds the hand of Oregon gubernatorial candidate Tina Kotek at an event

President Joe Biden introduces then-candidate Tina Kotek during an event at SEIU Local 49 in Portland, Oregon, October 14, 2022. (Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)


The measure makes possession of small amounts of drugs such as heroin or methamphetamine a felony punishable by up to six months in prison. This allows the police to confiscate the drugs and crack down on their use on sidewalks and in parks. Drug treatment should be offered as an alternative to punishment.

The bill also aims to make it easier to prosecute people who sell drugs and increase access to drugs for addiction. It also makes it easier to obtain and maintain housing without facing discrimination for using this drug.

Sen. Lou Frederick, a Democrat from Portland, criticized the bill.

“I’m concerned that it (the bill) will try to use the same tactics from the past and fail, just to reinforce a narrative of punishment that has failed for 50 years,” he said, adding that the measure could puts more people in the justice system without making them healthier.

Tents and other items cover a lawn in Portland

Tents cover an open space near the Steel Bridge in Portland, Oregon, July 7, 2023. Drug use is widespread in the area. (Hannah Rae Lambert/Fox News Digital)


Portland private security guard Michael Bock told Fox News last month that fentanyl overdoses increased 533 percent in Multnomah County, the state’s most populous county, between 2018 and 2022. Dealers operate with “absolute impunity,” he said. he, and distribute drugs, as is “7-Eleven.”

“They do it in schools, they do it in parking lots, they do it in playgrounds, they do it in churches, in front of businesses. They do it in broad daylight and nothing stops it,” he noted.

Bock said the cheap price of fentanyl at $0.25 per pill has had a devastating effect on people in his community.

Fox News’ Christine Parks and Hannah Rae Lambert and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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