Oregon recriminalizes heroine, fentanyl and cocaine after 1,500% rise in overdoses
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Quick Hit: 

Oregon, which had previously decriminalized hard drugs, is now reinstating criminal penalties for drug possession. This move comes after a surge in overdose deaths and disorder in Portland, leading to a reassessment of the state's drug policy.

Key Details: 

  • Oregon's Governor, Tina Kotek, signed a law on Monday to restore criminal penalties for drug possession, ending a key part of the 2020 voter initiative known as Measure 110.
  • Portland's Mayor, Ted Wheeler, who has been dealing with a series of crises since taking office in 2016, supports the rollback.
  • The new law could see people caught with small amounts of drugs like fentanyl and methamphetamine facing up to 180 days in jail, although there are provisions for treatment instead of confinement in many cases.

Diving Deeper: 

Three years ago, Oregon embarked on a groundbreaking plan to decriminalize hard drugs, betting that a focus on treatment over punishment would create a new model for drug policy nationwide. However, the state has seen a flood of overdose deaths and frequent chaos in Portland's streets, prompting a reevaluation of this approach.

Measure 110, a 2020 voter initiative, was one of the nation's most ambitious attempts to find alternatives to jail for drug users. However, the recent surge in unsheltered homelessness, turbulent street protests, an exodus of downtown businesses, record numbers of homicides, the rapid spread of fentanyl, and soaring overdose deaths have led to its rollback.

Mayor Ted Wheeler, who initially supported budget cuts to the police department, has been working to restore order in the city. He has fought in court to ban daytime camping and tried to establish mass shelter locations for those without housing. Wheeler has also pushed to increase the law enforcement presence in the city and to crack down on crime. He concluded that it was time to restore criminal penalties for hard drug possession.

Under the new law, people caught with small amounts of drugs could face up to 180 days in jail. However, lawmakers have also built in a series of offramps that allow people in many cases to get treatment instead of confinement. This shift in drug policy is a significant change in Oregon's approach to dealing with drug use and its associated problems.

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