PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) – As we near the November election, a contentious ballot measure could change how courts prosecute low level drug offenses in Oregon.
Measure 110 aims to expand access to drug treatment and recovery services.
According to campaign organizers, Oregon ranks 48 out of 50 states in the percentage of people who need drug addiction treatment but are unable to get it.
"Drug addiction is very treatable," Ray Stangeland said. "But we need to have those services and Oregon has failed miserably."
Stangeland is a retired doctor who worked in the emergency room for 40 years. He supports Measure 110 because he says he's seen too many instances where he's treated patients for drug overdoses and they wind up being repeat patients.
"I've had people really ready for treatment, really frightened, saying, I need help, I need it now," Stangeland said. And it's even 1 o'clock in the morning and I call social services, there's nothing, I can't get them help."
According to the voters' pamphlet, Measure 110 would allow a special council to oversee and approve grants to existing agencies or organizations to create addiction recovery centers. These centers would be open 24 hours a day for 365 days of the year.
According to the voters' pamphlet, the centers would assess someone's immediate medical or other kind of treatment. Patients would be able to work with a drug and alcohol counselor and come up with an individual intervention plan. Measure 110 would also remove criminal penalties for low-level possession of street drugs like heroine or meth.
Oregon would be the only state with a law like that for drugs other than marijuana.
Campaign organizers say this would not make drug trafficking, manufacturing, dealing or driving under the influence legal.
According to campaign organizers, the measure would lower possession of a small amount of street drugs from a misdemeanor to a citation. The fee would be $100.
On that citation, there would be a number to call a hotline for help, and if that person calls the hotline the fee will be waived.
According to campaign organizers, there would be two sources of revenue to fund these programs.
Law enforcement savings from a lack of arrests would be one of those sources of revenue.Campaign organizers say that's estimated between $12 million and $59 million.
Marijuana tax revenue would be the second source of funding, estimated between $91 million and $100 million dollars.
But opponents say even though the measure is well-intended, it will do more harm than good.
"The details are going to lead to an increase in drug overdoses and sadly takes away parents' control over their ability to know when their kids are caught using drugs," Oregon Recovers Executive Director Mike Marshall said. "And then on top of that it takes money out of county mental health programs and schools in the midst of the COVID crisis."
Marshall says Oregon Recovers is a statewide advocacy organization. Right now, he says people who are arrested for possession are referred to a drug diversion program. But under Measure 110, he says that would change.
"By reducing possession from a misdemeanor to a violation, that means that the courts no longer have the authority or the resources to divert them into treatment, or to put them at the front of the line. We have long waitlists," Marshall said.
Campaign organizers say if passed, Measure 110 would not raise taxes for Oregonians.
Campaign organizers say many places that are currently getting marijuana tax revenue are getting more than originally promised, and the first $45 million in marijuana tax revenue would go to the places promised, the excess would go toward treatment and recovery services.
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