Oregon voters appear to be having second thoughts about a controversial law they passed in 2020 that decriminalized the possession of hard drugs. The law, named Measure 110, shifted the focus away from criminalizing drug use and focused instead on tackling addiction through treatment and rehabilitation.
Now three years on, the repercussions of Measure 110 are becoming more apparent. Polling data conducted by the Foundation for Drug Policy Solutions shows that a majority of Oregon voters want to see the measure reversed entirely.
“56 % said they would like to see Measure 110 reversed completely, while 46 % said it should remain in place as it is now,” said Wendy Gonyea, a spokesperson for the foundation.
The measure was passed before the influx of fentanyl that has flooded the state in recent years, and more than 500 people in the Portland area alone have died from drug overdoses since the law was enacted. In contrast, in 2018 there were fewer than 200 drug overdose deaths in Portland, according to the Oregon Health Authority.
Public opinion has shifted since the measure was passed. In 2020, the measure received 58 percent approval. However, the poll findings, which featured questions about the impact of the measure, showed that 54 % of respondents blamed Measure 110 for an increase in homelessness. An even higher number, 50 %, said it had made their neighborhoods less safe.
This data comes on the heels of a fatal overdose in June that led to the arrest of a drug trafficker. It appears that those using and dealing drugs are taking advantage of the state’s more lax laws.
The below-the-radar response to the problem has not escaped the notice of state lawmakers. Pat Harrington, a state senator from Beaverton, is introducing a bill that would repeal Measure 110.
“We can’t continue to let this slide,” he said. “The law has created an environment where drug addicts have almost no incentive to seek help. People are dying and communities like mine are suffering.”
Unfortunately, it appears that many Oregon voters are unaware of the dire consequences of Measure 110. Recently, a campaign has started on social media that aims to educate citizens on the effects of the law. If successful, it could lead to a new referendum on the matter.
For now, Oregonans will be forced to deal with the consequences of the measure, while innocent people and families suffer. It’s a cautionary tale of what can happen when bold legislation is put in place without sound evidence to back it up.