Are all drugs legal in Oregon? Here’s what voters agreed to in 2020.
Here’s what will happen if you’re stopped with a small amount of cocaine, heroin or other drugs in Oregon.
Nate Chute, USA Today Network
Ballot Measure 110 goes into effect Feb. 1, and all eyes are turned to Oregon as it embarks on being the first state in the nation to decriminalize the personal possession of hard drugs such as cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and oxycodone.
What does the new law do?
The measure reclassifies possession of small amounts of drugs as a civil violation. Offenders will face a $100 fine, which can be avoided by agreeing to participate in a health assessment. The Oregon Criminal Justice Commission estimated that yearly convictions for possession of a controlled substance would decrease by 3,679, or 90.7%.
Measure 110 also funds addiction treatment and harm-reduction efforts by relocating tens of millions of dollars from the Oregon Marijuana Account, the state’s cannabis tax. Funds also are expected to come from state savings from reductions in arrests, incarceration and official supervision.
How much is a ‘small’ amount?
The measure makes possession of the following a noncriminal violation:
- Less than 1 gram of heroin
- Less than 1 gram, or less than 5 pills, of MDMA
- Less than 2 grams of methamphetamine
- Less than 40 units of LSD
- Less than 12 grams of psilocybin
- Less than 40 units of methadone
- Less than 40 pills of oxycodone
- Less than 2 grams of cocaine
The measure also reduces from a felony to a misdemeanor simple possession of substances containing:
- 1 to 3 grams of heroin
- 1 to 4 grams of MDMA
- 2 to 8 grams of methamphetamine
- 2 to 8 grams of cocaine
What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a civil violation?
“Misdemeanor is the lower classification of crime below felony,” Oregon State Police Capt. Timothy Fox said in an email to The Register-Guard.
“With a crime, there is possibility of fines and jail time. (With) violations, there is only the possibility of fines.”
Previous coverage: Oregon makes history legalizing psilocybin ‘magic mushrooms,’ decriminalizing some drugs
How do you avoid a fine?
The fine can be waived if the individual agrees to take a health assessment through a temporary 24/7 telephone Addiction Recovery Center (ARC) established by the Oregon Health Authority. The department has contracted with Lines for Life, a regional nonprofit dedicated to preventing substance abuse and suicide, to triage calls.
A peer specialist on the other end of the line will gather information, provide a health assessment and substance use disorder screening, and refer the individual to local services.
Will law enforcement arrest people with small amounts of hard drugs?
If it’s under the Measure 110 amounts for possession, then no.
“Possession of small amounts of drugs will result in a citation, E violation, where it previously could have resulted in an arrest and the possibility of time in jail,” Fox said.
What does OSP think is important for people to understand about M110?
Just because small amounts are decriminalized, it doesn’t apply when a person has more than specified under the law.
“Possession of larger amounts of drugs, manufacturing and distribution are still crimes,” Fox said.
How is local law enforcement being prepared for the changes?
The Lane County District Attorney’s office is providing trainings to law enforcement agencies around the county to help them understand the measure and how it changes interactions with offenders.
The changes have taken some time to digest and disseminate to law enforcement, said Chris Parosa, senior prosecutor for the Lane County District Attorney’s Office.
There are some nuances to the measure that will effect the way officers conduct themselves on a scene.
“For example when officers walk up (to a car) and immediately notice … a pipe commonly used to smoke some illicit drug from it, ordinarily, if a police officer saw that, they would immediately develop probable cause for a potential felony,” Parosa said. “Now, if they were to walk up and find a pipe, which we can only assume has a residue quantity of drugs in it, it’s no more than a violation.”
This prevents law enforcement from then searching vehicles because they can’t develop reasonable suspicion, which is the grounds that allows them to ultimately continue to search for evidence of a crime, Parosa said.
The Eugene Police Department is scheduled to be trained on Wednesday, Feb. 3.
How will the DA’s office approach Measure 110 cases?
“Our oath to our jobs is just to follow the law as it’s written and the law says that these changes are to go into effect, beginning Monday,” Parosa said. “We absolutely intend to follow them.”
What’s Oregon Health Authority’s role in implementing the legislation?
The Oregon Health Authority is required to establish:
- A Treatment and Recovery Services fund, financed with marijuana revenues, which will support new Addiction Recovery Centers and Community Access to Care grants.
- Fifteen Addiction Recovery Centers, or ARCs, that are always open throughout the state by Oct. 1, 2021.
- A grants program that will support the ARCs.
- An Oversight and Accountability Council that will oversee the distribution of the grants. The council is now taking applications for people who wish to serve on it.
- A temporary 24/7 ARC telephone line by Feb. 1.
How fast will changes take place?
While it’s effective Monday, Feb. 1, advocates think it will take time to start to see some of the changes the measure promises.
“It will take time to see the new law’s full effects on the state as a whole,” Devon Downeysmith, a spokesperson for the pro-Measure 110 Oregon Health Justice Recovery Alliance, said in an email to The Register-Guard.
“But for individuals struggling now, who would have been met with criminal barriers, the positive impacts of the new law could be immediate.
“Decriminalization is a transformative, important step in shifting from a criminal approach to a health-based approach to addiction — but it’s only part of what needs to happen,” Downeysmith said.
“The next step is for the legislature to fund the recovery services outlined in the act, so that we can begin to address the incredible need for recovery services in our communities.”
Contact reporter Tatiana Parafiniuk-Talesnick at Tatiana@registerguard.com or 541-521-7512, and follow her on Twitter @TatianaSophiaPT. Want more stories like this? Subscribe to get unlimited access and support local journalism.