One of the most “woke” states in the union, Oregon, is rethinking its progressive move to decriminalize heroin and fentanyl.
Support for Measure 110, which aimed to make it easier for addicts to seek treatment, is dwindling, according to The Telegraph, as residents realize that allowing the use of deadly drugs to go unpunished may not be the best road to recovery.
“Only a fraction of addicts given ‘tickets’ for drugs offences, instead of jail time, progress into rehabilitation, preferring instead to be slapped with a $100 fine,” The Telegraph reports.
When Measure 110 came up for a vote in a referendum in November 2020, 58% of Oregonians backed it. Three years later, public opinion has nearly done a complete 180, with 56% now supporting a repeal, according to an Emerson poll.
— BPR (@BIZPACReview) November 4, 2020
Businessman Matt Siegmund owns Gardner Floor Covering in Eugene, and while the homeless have been camping under his awning for some time, Measure 110 took the problem to a whole new level.
“It has been pretty awful,” he told The Telegraph.
“In the past, we were dealing with older drunks, but since Measure 110 was passed the people are younger and more belligerent,” he explained. “They have been defecating and urinating. For the last three weeks, police have been sweeping the homeless people away so I and my staff can come to work.”
The state, Siegmund said, decriminalized the drugs before putting in place a plan to help the addicts.
“It is not helping our business,” he said. “Measure 110 was supposed to get people into treatment, but there isn’t the infrastructure to support it.”
“Far from solving the problem,” The Telegraph reports, “there is evidence that the liberal experiment is attracting addicts from elsewhere and the state, lacking the capacity to offer treatment to thousands of addicts, has been overwhelmed.”
“I have friends who work in social security,” Siegmund said, “and they say that only 30 percent of the IDs they see are from Oregon.”
The arguably naive premise behind Measure 110 was the belief that, when hit with a $100 fine, the drug users would pick up a phone, call a self-help line, and enter a treatment program to avoid paying it.
Eugene’s police chief, Chris Skinner, said that, while Oregan handed out roughly 6,000 citations, fewer than 125 users dialed the self-help line.
“We don’t have even really one successful example of somebody that went from a citation issued on the street to self-assessment to addiction services to a place of wellness,” Skinner told Eugene’s City Council.
Oregon, he warned, was “on pace to shatter the record for overdose calls for service and shatter the record for overdose deaths.”
“Police officers and firefighters are administering Narcan, life-saving Narcan at an alarming rate,” he said.
— BPR (@BIZPACReview) September 27, 2023
Police aren’t looking to reverse Measure 110 completely, but they do want drug possession to be an offense again so that addicts can be court-ordered into treatment.
Businesses in the state want things to change.
Tiffany Edwards, vice president of policy and community development at Eugene Chamber of Commerce, noted the “flaws” in the measure.
“When measure 110 was passed, we in our community started to see a significant rise in crime and in particular, open-air drug use,” she told The Telegraph. “There were a lot of complaints from the business community. It is having a severe impact on our businesses, economic development and the wellness of our community.”
“We recognized while Measure 110 coincided with the explosion of fentanyl in the US in general, I think what we learned was that there were a lot of flaws in how the measure was implemented,” she said.
But not everyone wants to walk back the failed experiment.
Prosecuting drug users would “go back to a harmful system where people are arrested and put in jail for drug possession,” the Drug Policy Alliance argued.
“Jailing people,” the organization claimed, “is a waste of resources that results in a revolving door of arrest and incarceration that never addresses the root causes of drug use.”
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