PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) - Oregon has become the first state to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of common street drugs.
Measure 110 is passing, with 59 percent of people voting yes and 41% of Oregonians voting no.
“I am blown away by the love and compassion that Oregonians have shown toward people who use drugs,” said Haven Wheelock.
Wheelock served as a chief petitioner for the campaign to vote yes on 110. She also runs the drug users health services at an organization that helps homeless youth in Portland. She says she believes this measure will save lives.
“It to me feels so hopeful that we are changing the tide on the war on drugs because we know it’s failed policy, and we know it’s disproportionately harming communities of color,” said Wheetlock.
Supporters of the measure say decriminalizing small amounts of drug possession will allow people to get the help they need, rather than criminalizing their addiction.
“I wasn’t able to get jobs that I need to sustain a proper livability lifestyle, and there was no way to turn my life around. In and out of jail all the time,” said Hubert Mathews, a recovered addict.
Mathews says he spent years battling an addiction to cocaine. But, he eventually got treatment and now spends his time doing outreach to help addicts find recovery.
“We need to change the ways we approach addiction and get people to where they can live in our society,” he said.
He says a measure like 110 would have saved him from a life in the criminal justice system.
“I’d probably have been able to get the treatment way sooner than I did,” said Mathews.
Supporters of the measure say it will establish and appoint addiction recovery centers, increase the amount of services, decriminalize drug possession, and establish oversight and accountability. According to the measure, it will be partially funded by marijuana taxes, as well as the money saved from law enforcement not performing some drug arrests.
“This is one big piece, and it’s not going to do everything. We’re not done rebuilding the system, like, this is a huge first step, and there is still plenty of work that will need to be done in order to really create the system of care that people deserve,” said Wheelock.
The first effects of the measure take place in February 2021, when the decriminalization provision takes effect.
Opponents of Measure 110 say they are disappointed it passed but say they will work with supporters to make sure the measure is implemented correctly and safely.
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