Democratic lawmakers are weighing a proposal that would also allow misdemeanors for drug possession, but with smaller potential penalties than those proposed by the Republicans.
By Ben Botkin, Oregon Capital Chronicle
Oregon House Republican lawmakers on Thursday released details of a proposal that would end Measure 110 by mandating misdemeanor penalties for drug possession and treatment to avoid jail.
House Republicans want to make possession of small amounts of fentanyl, heroin and meth a Class A misdemeanor, which carries up to a year in jail, a fine of up to $6,250, or both. Under the bill, users could avoid jail time with mandatory addiction treatment. The bill also would impose a similar misdemeanor penalty for public drug use.
In the coming weeks, Democratic lawmakers, who hold the majority in the Legislature, plan to release detailed proposals to address drug addiction for the short, 35-day session, which starts February 5.
Oregon voters in 2020 passed Measure 110, which decriminalizes possession of small amounts of hard drugs and puts a share of cannabis revenue into addiction programs and services. Criticism since then has mounted, with reaction split: Measure 110 supporters are urging Oregonians to give the measure a chance to succeed as programs begin. Others say smaller changes to the law are necessary to address public drug use and allow police to intervene. And others want Measure 110 repealed.
“The citizens of Oregon understand the failures of Measure 110,” said Rep. Rick Lewis (R-Silverton) one of the six GOP chief sponsors of the proposal. “We see the results on the streets, in the unacceptable overdose death rate and in the catastrophic consequences to our communities, to public safety and to livability. Change is needed, and we can’t afford to take small steps that fail to adequately address the problem.”
The proposal would require tougher prison sentences for drug dealers and manufacturers, including a mandatory prison sentence of at least three years for unlawful delivery or manufacturing of a controlled substance if they have a prior conviction within the last five years.
The bill’s chief sponsors include Reps. Kevin Mannix (R-Salem) and Christine Goodwin (R-Canyonville), who serve on the joint committee tasked with addressing the drug addiction crisis.
In a statement, Mannix said the bill would return accountability to the state and provide public safety and “compassionate rehabilitation services to addicted persons.”
Goodwin said the state needs to change direction and this bill starts that work.
“People do not feel safe,” Goodwin said. “Businesses are leaving. People are afraid to do business in our state.”
A Democratic proposal
Senate Majority Leader Kate Lieber (D-Beaverton) said lawmakers are working on a comprehensive proposal.
“We are working, in conversation with our Republican colleagues, to put together a proposal that connects people to addiction treatment, gets drugs off our streets, and keeps our communities safe,” Lieber said in a statement to the Capital Chronicle. “We know we cannot go back to the failed war on drugs, and we cannot continue to allow Oregonians to die of drug overdoses on our streets. A policy has not been finalized, but once we do have a proposal to put forward, we look forward to thoroughly vetting the ideas through a public process.”
Among the potential ideas: Democratic lawmakers are weighing a proposal that would also allow misdemeanors for drug possession, but with smaller potential penalties than those proposed by the Republicans. The Democratic proposal would make possession a Class C misdemeanor, which carries a possible jail sentence of up to 30 days.
That proposal, which could change, would give people an opportunity to avoid the misdemeanor charge if they talked to a provider about treatment and other services. If they declined to get help, the charge would go to the courts, but they could still get the case discharged before trial if they entered a program. For cases that proceeded, people would be likely to access drug courts to get help and have charges expunged.
Democratic lawmakers have said they want tougher penalties for drug dealers, prevention and education and the courts to all have a role in the state’s response to the addiction crisis.
Read More Feedzy