In a landmark move, Oregonians voted to decriminalize personal and non-commercial possession of drugs, including heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. Receiving a little over 58% of the vote, Measure 110, also called the Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act of 2020, shifts the focus of handling of drug possession cases. It may also pave the way for a change in how the nation treats those addicted to drugs.
Reclassification of Drug Possession Charges
Under current laws, personal and non-commercial possession of certain amounts of drugs may be charged as Class A misdemeanors. A conviction can lead to jail time for up to 364 days and/or a fine of up to $6,250. However, when Measure 110 takes effect in 2021, these possession charges will be reclassified as Class E violations, similar to getting a traffic ticket.
Under the new initiative, a person convicted of possessing a controlled substance will have the option of paying a $100 fine or completing a health assessment. If they choose to undergo the evaluation, they must do so within 45 days of their conviction.
The decriminalization of drugs applies to substances in the following quantities:
- Heroin: 1 gram or less
- Cocaine: 2 grams or less
- Methamphetamine: 2 grams or less
- MDMA: Less than 1 gram or 5 pills
- LSD: Less than 40 user units
- Psilocybin: Less than 12 grams
- Methadone: Less than 40 user units
- Oxycodone: Less than 40 pills
Decriminalization brings up many questions about how pending and past cases may be handled. For instance, if a person was convicted of possessing a small amount of heroin, what legal options would they have to expunge the conviction since the offense is no longer a crime? We are hoping to see options become available that will give people second chances.
Decriminalization Does Not Mean Legalization
Although Oregon has voted to decriminalize "hard drugs," that does not mean they are legal. Instead, it means that a person won't face criminal penalties for possessing them.
Certain drugs are still illegal. Thus, if a person possesses quantities over those listed above, they may be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony and can face incarceration upon a conviction. Additionally, possessing with intent to sell, manufacturing, and/or distributing drugs will still be crimes regardless of the amount of the substance involved.
Also, personal possession may be decriminalized under state law, but this is not true under federal law. The federal government may still prosecute individuals caught with controlled substances even if they have an amount at or below that listed earlier.
Drug Treatment Services
Along with decriminalizing personal possession of drugs, Oregon Measure 110 also establishes drug addiction treatment and recovery programs. The centers will be funded by marijuana tax revenue in excess of $11.25 million, as well as savings from prosecuting personal and non-commercial drug possession cases.
The drug treatment centers will be required to provide, free of charge, the following services:
- Needs assessments available 24/7
- Behavioral health assessments
- Intervention plans and connections to appropriate services
- Peer counseling and support
- Mobile outreach
Providing such services to all Oregonians who need them is considered more effective than incarceration at helping individuals deal with and overcome their addiction. Rather than being punished for behavioral or health problems, they will get the support and guidance they need to live more productive lives.
The shift from penalization to treatment may also help end the cycle of drug use and incarceration. This, in turn, may lead to a reduction in social problems such as homelessness and racially biased arrests.
The Impact of Measure 110
In an article from the Salem Reporter, local prosecutors and treatment providers weighed in on how this new approach to minor drug cases may play out. With only two months until the law goes into effect in Oregon, prosecutors and police are working hard to adjust how they handle drug crimes and brief officers to explain how police tactics will have to change.
The Polk County sheriff stated that, among his concerns, the change means police no longer will be able to search vehicles if they see drugs inside to determine if larger quantities are hidden away. Some individuals also opposed the measure because they felt that the funding portion of the law is murky and doesn’t guarantee more treatment resources.
Janie Gullickson, the executive director of the Mental Health and Addiction Association of Oregon and a co-petitioner of Measure 110, said the long-term goal is that Measure 110 will transform how people look at those who are struggling with addiction and allow for intervention sooner.
“That’s the ultimate change that we’ll see is that it will be thought of as more of a health condition rather than a moral failing,” she said.
If you have questions about Measure 110 and how it might affect your current or past drug crime case, call Baxter Harder, LLC at (541) 238-9210 or contact us online today. We deliver quality legal representation in Bend, OR.