Drug Policy

Oregon Ballot Initiative Would Decriminalize Low-Level Possession of All Drugs

Measure 110 would reduce felony convictions for drug possession by an estimated 95 percent.

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Voters in Oregon will have the chance to approve an ambitious criminal justice reform agenda this year. The Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act, or Measure 110, would reclassify low-level possession of illegal substances from a misdemeanor to a violation, prompting either a $100 dollar fine or a health assessment.

Drug trafficking would still be considered a felony, while substantial possession would be reduced to a misdemeanor. The measure would also expand rehabilitation services and open 24-hour Addiction Recovery Centers. 

According to a report released by the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission, the proposed reclassifications could lead to 1,800 fewer Oregonians being convicted of felony possession of a controlled substance each year, a drop of about 95 percent from the current conviction rate. 

The report notes that Measure 110 would particularly benefit racial minorities, as racial disparities in both arrests and convictions would "fall substantially." For instance, arrests of blacks, who are disproportionately affected by the drug war, would fall 93.7 percent. It would fall 82.9 percent for Asians, 86.5 for Hispanics, 94.2 for Native Americans, and 91.1 for whites.

The report adds that "inequities [may] exist in police stops, jail bookings, bail, pretrial detention, or other areas" but there is not "sufficient or appropriate data to examine those stages."

Measure 110's addiction programs would cost $57 million annually, to be funded entirely through excess taxes collected on cannabis sales, which are expected to net $182.4 million from 2021 to 2023. Anthony Johnson, one of the chief petitioners of the Yes for 110 Campaign, predicts that as tax revenues increase and the state realizes the savings incurred by decriminalization, even more funds can be reallocated to treatment and rehabilitation.

The campaign has primarily been organized online, leaning on supporters to get the word out. "There's no playbook for how to campaign in a pandemic," Johnson says. Nonetheless, he thinks it has "a really good chance of winning" this fall. "Our communications with voters all across the state shows that voters understand that the status quo is not working. We're clearly not going to arrest our way out of addiction."

The measure has been endorsed by many prominent individuals and organizations, ranging from the Oregon branch of the American Civil Liberties Union to several county district attorneys.

Oregon has long been at the cutting edge of drug reform efforts. The state legalized recreational cannabis in a 2014 ballot measure, and a 2017 law slashed some penalties for possession of small quantities of cocaine, LSD, and other illegal substances. Oregon voters will also have a chance this November to approve medicinal use of psilocybin at licensed treatment centers.

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  1. This is a terrible way legalize drugs. The problem with prohibition is not drug users committing other crimes it is the drug dealers and gangs killing each other for control of the black market. This does nothing to stop that.

    It is also completely irrational. Why is it okay to possess a small amount of drugs but not a larger amount? Either drugs are bad and need to be criminalized or they are not. If they are, having just a small amount is not okay anymore than having a large amount. Buying them is no better than selling them.

    If you want to legalize drugs, then legalize drugs. Make it legal to sell them and possess them and put the black markets completely out of business. Let respectable businesses sell drugs so criminals can’t. All this does is make life easier for criminals. We still will have the same black market and the same problems that come with it. The difference will be that small time users and drug dealers will now be free to conduct their business in the open and generally destroy the quality of life for everyone around them.

    They are doing this not because they want drugs to be legal. They are doing this because they want more criminals on the streets and with less worries about the cops.

    1. Instead of mandatory incarceration it will be mandatory rehab.

      What about people who don’t want to quit? Jail most likely.

      That’s what these drug warriors don’t understand. Lots of people use drugs not because they are a slave to a chemical, but because they enjoy them.

      These people are Puritans. This is based upon the premise that a user is an abuser. That these users are sinners enslaved by a demonic power. They must repent their sins and return to the flock.

      What about simply accepting that people will seek pleasure through the use of chemicals? Nope. Can’t have that. Must send in SWAT goons with boners who cream their jeans when they shoot someone’s dog. That pleasure is perfectly fine because it’s natural. Yup.

      1. With boners? Cream their jeans? Project much? What are your fantasies?

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      2. A friend of mine is the local JP. She even agrees court mandated drug and alcohol counseling is completely worthless and wishes she could do away with it, especially for first time DUI’s, but her hands are tied because the law mandates it.

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      3. There is nothing in the measure that REQUIRES treatment or sends addicts to jail if they refuse or drop out of treatment. This was tried in CA under two propositions. Utter failure. CA Drug Courts worked well. Instead of jail, go to treatment. If you drop out, try jail until you decide treatment is better. Same judge, same POs, same bailiffs, same attorneys on a regular basis so there’s no way to BS the court. Drug courts had excellent results. Now most refuse drug court since they know they won’t do much time anyway. Misdemeanor offenders do very little, if any time, so there’s no incentive for many to quit.

        1. Ignoring the numerous valid Constitutional arguments against drug courts for now, why/how is it the state’s business to provide a coerced ‘incentive to quit?’ If you’re doing drugs and enjoying yourself and not committing theft or crimes of violence, it’s no one’s business. People smoke and drink all the time and commit no crimes, but since excess is unhealthy and socially frowned-upon, shouldn’t we coerce them to ‘do the right thing’ through ‘drunk courts’ and ‘smoker’s courts?’

          You say drug courts ‘work,’ but at what? What, exactly, are ‘excellent results?’ Filling the state’s coffers by extorting the weak and sick (and their families) among our citizenry?

          My sister, who was never violent or a thief and was always employed (when she wasn’t waiting a year or more in jail on simple possession charges, just to be sent back to ‘drug court’ for another shakedown) was arrested 3 different times for simple possession and went through them 3 separate times and was slated for a fourth (she told them she’d rather rot in jail, and I don’t blame her) when she died of an OD.

          Not only did the drug court clearly NOT work, it made things much more costly and inefficient than if we would have been left alone to marshal our own resources and handle our own family business as we saw fit. The countless hours my family spent taxiing and sitting in court with her, to keep her out of jail, could’ve been better spent. Even better, because we tried to help her by allowing her to live with us, WE ‘forfeited’ our 4th Amendment rights and our entire house was subject to random searches. I called the court house to explain that one, and they just hung up on me.

          And as for ‘no way to BS the court?’ Please! That’s where booze and designer drugs come into play. I’d wager drug courts are one of the main reasons for the explosion of designer drugs that – at least for a time – aren’t tested for by drug courts. Thanks to the miracles of chemistry, there are potentially a virtually unlimited number of them, and after a while, it gets mighty expensive to test for all of them!

          There’s also the issue of the state forcing people into 12-step programs. I find this hilarious (doubly so as a former alcoholic, myself) since it flies in the face of the basic premise of AA and NA – namely, that YOU must WANT to quit, and no one else can quit for you! That’s definitely been my experience, and I was a real hell-raising drunk, yet in the relatively few interactions I had with the state, they treated me differently because my vice was legal. In the end, I neither wanted no needed their ‘help’ to quit. It’s been 10 years since I took my last drink.

          These are just a few of the arguments I can make against drug courts and state interference into medical matters like addiction, in general. In the end, so-called ‘drug courts’ are a scam – a tax on users of SOME ‘bad’ drugs – and should be dismantled. The existing criminal code already amply covers theft, violence, and public intoxication offenses, thus rendering the ‘drug courts’ redundant (like the entire Drug War), at best, and a criminally unconstitutional shakedown racket, at worst.

          1. In our rural county Oregon
            there are a few hard core addicts– meth heads mostly.
            They make life miserable for everyone in their orbit.
            In our experience, the drug laws have a public benefit.
            The meth heads leave the county after the arrest,
            or at least trouble no one while they are in jail.

            Frankly I’m of two minds.
            First, I’m against these laws on principle.
            Second, I realize that the proposition if passed
            will lead to hassles for many honest folk.

            I would clearly favor the proposition
            if the other crimes that the meth heads commit
            are strongly prosecuted. Since this is unlikely to be the case,
            I fear the proposition would help turn Oregon into and Seattle.

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            2. i’m with you: decriminalize the drug use/possession, but go hard after all the other crimes if the users demonstrate they can’t behave.

              carrot and stick.

            3. Why would the cops and prosecutors go after drug users for the real crimes some of them commit, when it’s so much easier (and often more profitable) to bust them for drugs?

              Repeal the drug laws, and either the cops work on burglaries and other crimes with actual victims, or voters will see that they’re really doing nothing useful and call for firing cops and reducing police budgets.

    2. “It is also completely irrational. Why is it okay to possess a small amount of drugs but not a larger amount?”

      Because users are victims of vile dealers who enslave these poor, innocent users with these demonic substances. That’s why. Duh.

    3. While I agree with you that possession and use of all drugs should be legal, this is at least a step in the right direction.

      It does not effect the sales of drugs. That is still illegal. I disagree with that mandate, as well, though some regulation will always be around. Government gotta govern, for better or worse.

      As far as your claim: “…small time users and drug dealers will now be free to conduct their business in the open and generally destroy the quality of life for everyone around them…,” well, I heard this idea bandied about when they legalized pot. It didn’t happen.

      One can smoke pot openly in OR. Yet, I rarely seen it. I have only lived here a bit over a year-and-a-half, but I get out in the public a lot. And, by “rarely,” I mean exactly once.

      1. As far as your claim: “…small time users and drug dealers will now be free to conduct their business in the open and generally destroy the quality of life for everyone around them…,” well, I heard this idea bandied about when they legalized pot. It didn’t happen.

        Yeah, while I don’t disagree with ending the Drug War, I think it’s frequenlty being offered as a bit of a false panacea.

        Everything the Purdue Family did with Oxycontin was exceedingly open or, at the very least, didn’t require meeting doctors in back alleys in the dead of night or gunning down rival pharma companies with uzis. Look where it got them. Repeat as necessary for tobacco, alcohol, etc.

        1. “Yeah, while I don’t disagree with ending the Drug War, I think it’s frequenlty being offered as a bit of a false panacea.”

          On that we can agree.

      2. Correction: Pot cannot be smoked “in public places” in OR.

        1. In Canada it can.

          The rule is if you can smoke cigarettes in an area, you can smoke pot.

          I saw very little open air pot smoking except my own late at night, and a few people who were clearly millennial aged, far left drifters right in front of the weed shop in downtown Montreal.

          Before it was legal in Canada (2005), I took part in a protest against the arrest of Marc Emery in downtown Vancouver (I happened to be there when it happened – I did not travel for that) where hundreds of people were smoking pot in the middle of a beautiful day. The cops simply did not care.

      3. Talk to anyone who lived in New York City in the 80s and they saw it. The problem with most people who support legalizing drugs is that they think everyone is responsible. No, people are not responsible. A lot of people are just degenerates and abuse drugs as an expression of that degeneracy. If you let them use drugs in public places and beg instead of work, they will do just that and your city will turn into San Francisco. Worse, if your state is the one state that doesn’t harass small time drug users, every user bum in the surrounding states will show up on your doorstep to steal and beg and generally make life miserable for everyone.

        I support legalizing drugs. But, I have no illusions about actual regular drug users and especially addicts. They are self destructive scum that do nothing but destroy themselves and the lives of anyone around them. The case for drug legalization is that making the stuff illegal doesn’t stop these people and just makes drug markets into violent black markets run by criminals. The case isn’t that drug users are desirable or that there will not be a tradeoff for ending the drug war.

        1. One thing that struck me about drug treatment is all of the current modalities have illegalization at their core. Hard to do even basic research if crime and punishment is central to your approach.

          One of the things made clear in Licit and Illicit Drugs is that the culture around illegal drug use is more damaging than the drugs themselves. One bit that isn’t often discussed is that the vast majority of drug users are not addicts. Indeed, we didn’t see the “degeneracy” of NYCs prior when drugs were legal and largely unregulated.

          That’s a different problem requiring a different solution.

        2. I think the problem would change drastically.

          Drugs wound no longer be made with shit used as fillers. It would be enterprising companies that wound produce drugs efficiently (as efficiently as the government will allow them anyways) and safely. It won’t be meth cooked up in a trailer, but something that gives a similar feel in a safe form that they can buy at the store.

          The entire culture of drug use will change drastically as a result. With prohibition, drugs are forced in to the shade. To the worst places. In addition to the drug gangs and cartels, that creates a culture of people who must necessarily navigate those places just to get their vice if choice, and in doing so become criminals who must often also necessarily navigate criminal culture. That set of circumstances is a recipe for creating degenerates. Legalization, though certainly not a panacea, would not only put a hurting in cartels and drugs gangs, but also change the way people must necessarily acquire their high. It won’t be in crack houses or heroin dens or back alleys, but in people’s living rooms or basements.

      4. One of the problems with legalization is instead putting people in jail for possession, you put them in jail for regulation infractions. One of the reasons Denver went with decriminalization psilocybin is seeing the effects of legalization of pot.

        There is probably some distinction to be made for things that grow vs. manufactured and maybe the regulatory state will lighten up after a few decades of legal drug use being part of the background, but for right now it is hard to say legalization is “better”.

    4. Baby steps. It’s a start, it’s better than the status quo, and there;s no reason to vote against it unless you are a drug warrior.

      1. This isn’t baby steps. This just gives us all of the social problems that come with legalization, and there will be some, without any of the benefits. If anything, this makes full legalization much less likely. What is going to happen is people will see the social costs of this, which will users selling and using in the open and generally being degenerates, but not see any of the benefits of ending prohibition. IF you wanted to design a poison pill that would satisfy people pushing for drug legalization while ensure the public would be soured on full legalization, this proposal would be it.

        1. What is going to happen is people will see the social costs of this, which will users selling and using in the open and generally being degenerates, but not see any of the benefits of ending prohibition.

          I see your point, but I would like to point out that this just decriminalizes possession, not public use.

          And it sees the benefit of 95% lower felony conviction rates for possession, which has to be good at least for the people who aren’t having their lives screwed up by both drugs and prison, and probably their families.

        2. But decriminalization of possession of pot has eventually led to legalization of the business. Basically, making it safer (by reducing legal penalties) for people to consume it led more people to consume it, until it became socially acceptable enough after about a generation to legalize it. It is possible that measures like this will work similarly with other drugs, making them popular enough to legalize some day.

    5. This is a terrible way legalize drugs. The problem with prohibition is not drug users committing other crimes it is the drug dealers and gangs killing each other for control of the black market. This does nothing to stop that.

      Yes, but just legalizing everything in one fell swoop isn’t going to happen. This seems likely to be better than nothing.

    6. Face the facts.Personal drug consumption is here for good.Civilize the whole system by accepting that fact.Make pot stores legal allowing recreational purchase of some harder drugs.This would drastically reduce the illegal importation and distribution of what is now as common as beer!!!

    7. It is very common for government to regulate the sales of products, and much less common to regulate possession of them. This measure would just square the thrust of Oregon’s law on controlled substances with that of their laws on drugs generally.

      They are doing this not because they want drugs to be legal. They are doing this because they want more criminals on the streets and with less worries about the cops.

      What they want is fewer people in jail. There just isn’t enough sympathy for narcotics dealers — people actually making money off such products — to reduce penalties for them, but there is enough sympathy to reduce penalties on people who just want a good time. Notice that the law doesn’t even legalize their possession of such products, just reduces the legal penalties for doing so.

      And the distinction is not irrational if you have the vague idea that making money is evil, which a lot of the world’s legislation is based on. In other words, if the balance is about equal, but one side is making money, that’s enough to tip the scale to condemning them.

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  2. “The report notes that Measure 110 would particularly benefit racial minorities, as racial disparities in both arrests and convictions would “fall substantially.” For instance, arrests of blacks, who are disproportionately affected by the drug war, would fall 93.7 percent. It would fall 82.9 percent for Asians, 86.5 for Hispanics, 94.2 for Native Americans, and 91.1 for whites.”
    The last sentence of this paragraph seems to, at least partially, refute the first sentence of this paragraph.

  3. This is progress but putting the money in ‘treatment’ is a complete waste. People do drugs because they’re fun or because they’re bored or want attention. If they tell you otherwise they are LYING. And they will be taught how to lie in ‘treatment’ among other dangerous practices including suicide bullying. However a lot of recreational users will be trapped into it, and hopefully they can debunk the propaganda and brainwashing (without being threatened with jail time). Better to let people keep the money in their pockets.

    and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household. – Deuteronomy 14:26

  4. Drug prohibition violates the NAP and is therefore immoral.

  5. Oregon has long been at the cutting edge of drug reform efforts. The state legalized recreational cannabis in a 2014 ballot measure, and a 2017 law slashed some penalties for possession of small quantities of cocaine, LSD, and other illegal substances.

    What’s the news from Oregon lately? Hopefully not a lot of crime and irrational behavior.

    1. Property crimes in OR, overall, are a bit higher than the national level. It was this way before pot legalization. Homicides are significantly below the national level. This has also been true for many years.

      1. Portland police record highest number of death investigations in single month in more than three decades

        https://www.oregonlive.com/crime/2020/07/portland-police-record-highest-number-of-death-investigations-in-single-month-in-more-than-three-decades.html

        1. Violence is up all across the country. Cherrypicking one month during a time of super high unemployment and pandemic seems quite disingenuous.

        2. Portland is Portland. Most of OR is not Portland (thank God). Crime is up in many major cities. When one cripples a huge portion of the economy, throwing millions of people out of work, and all the uncertainty that comes with that, well, it’s not uncommon.

          1. That was supposed to be a reply to MiloMinderbinder,

            1. Let’s be clear. I’m all for legalizing drugs (the John way) but let’s also be clear there are tradeoffs. Yes, fewer people in jail and less time and money wasted by cops. But Portland has been ground zero for crazy protestors (behind maybe Seattle). I don’t think it’s unreasonable that drug use among the rioter/protestor/BLM class is a contributing factor.

              1. You mean all those 30-something soccer moms?

                In the US, back in the day, (until 1909) smoking opium was perfectly legal. It was available in many “patent” medicines, over the counter, including Laudanum until, IIRC, 1915. Similarly, cocaine was not an uncommon ingredient. How DID we survive?

                1. And I thought nuance was a hallmark of Libertarians.
                  It’s perfectly possible that legalizing drugs is a net benefit for 90-95% of the population. Everything from less incarceration, more civil liberties, etc.

                  But a few people might not be able to handle it. And maybe pot does worsen the situation for some folks with mental health issues. Doesn’t mean the drugs should be illegal and we should lock them up for smoking pot. But it could make things worse for them, and others who suffer the externalities.

                  Libertarians love to talk about tradeoffs when it comes to something like minimum wage increases. But when it comes to drugs apparently, there will be no downsides ever for anyone when they are legalized.

                  1. I don’t see any real “down-side,” at least overall. Was life more dangerous, as whole, after prohibition, or during prohibition? Has legalizing alcohol ruined the nation? Certainly substance addiction, and irresponsible use of substances, can carry penalties. There are rules governing “the commons,” but they don’t need to extend to private property or private use. There are lots of alcoholics, and most of them are high-functioning. Is Rush Limbaugh not an example of a high-functioning opiate addict?

                    It’s a complex issue.

  6. For all its good intentions (which I don’t see any) the ‘all or nothing’ approach to America’s “drug problem” (which I don’t see a one) is the only way to go. Legalize all or nothing at all because at the end of the day you will still have to fork out $100 on a fine that you could have used to buy more drugs and nobody wants that. So the drug war continues!

    1. And go back to a more sane drinking age (I like the Danish/German models, you can drink with your family but can’t purchase until you are 14 or 16). Or we just allow parents to decide when their kids can drink and do away with it all together.

      1. Hell, I remember when I had my first beer.

  7. LEGALIZE. IT. ALL.

    Disappear the profit… disappear the crime syndicate.

    But if you hurt someone while under the influence (or damage property), all bets are off.

    1. No we don’t do away with the crime syndicates. The mafia/mob did diminish some after prohibition ended but it evolved into other illegal activities and continues to exist, even if in a less prominent role, to this day.

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  9. Bad luck to them, Oregon is looking more and more like a failed State; a ruinous future for all, do you want people to point to Oregon as an example of anything?
    Oregon is typhoid Mary, you don’t want her on your resume.

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  12. Great to see a city that’s being burned to the ground by it’s own citizen’s teenage kids has their priorities straight….

    Quite poignant for this train wreck of a city doing this worthless gesture amid riots and looting.

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  14. Anything that shuts down the cops and their drug war BS – even a little bit – is great by me. Fuck them, and fuck their funding.

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