Two gubernatorial candidates back repeal of law, which decriminalizes possession of small amounts of hard drugs
Volunteers deliver boxes containing signed petitions in support of Measure 110 to the Oregon Secretary of State’s office in June 2020. [AP/file photo]
Despite a much-criticized rollout, Oregonians still support a 2020 law that decriminalizes possession of small amounts of hard drugs and allocates millions of dollars to addiction services, according to a recent poll by a progressive think tank.
The Data for Progress survey found that 85% of Democrats, 58% of independent voters and 33% of Republicans support keeping Measure 110, rather than repealing it and funding addiction services. The measure is the country’s first drug decriminalization law. It also provided for the creation of drug addiction networks throughout the state. It was touted as a way to keep low-level drug offenders out of prison and get them some help.
The San Francisco-based research group surveyed 1,051 Oregon voters between Aug. 23-29. Voters were asked which of the two statements most closely aligned with their views:
“We should keep Measure 110 in place so that Oregonians are not punished for their mental health and continue to have better access to addiction services.”
“We should repeal Measure 110, resume arresting people caught with any amount of drugs, and defund services funded by Measure 110.”
Respondents were also given the option of “neither”.
According to Data for Progress, the results are consistent across all regions of Oregon.
Measure 110 was approved by voters in November 2020, 58% to 42%, and implemented in February the following year.
The law reduced the penalties for possession of methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, LSD and other drugs to the level of a traffic ticket. The other key piece of the law redirects about $300 million a year in marijuana tax revenue to drug treatment centers in every Oregon county. Critics slammed the Oregon Health Authority, which oversaw the rollout, for a botched process involving a board of people with experience in drug addiction but no experience launching complicated healthcare programs.
Authorities did not approve contracts for the last of the centers until June. Meanwhile, drug-related arrests and incarcerations have declined, but addicts are still waiting for resources to help them. Opponents of Measure 110 include two of the three gubernatorial candidates, Republican Christine Drazan and unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson, who support repeal of the law.
Unaffiliated Oregon Senate candidate Rich Vial, a former Republican state representative, presents himself as a critic of the two-party system. He told the Capital Chronicle he thinks opposition to Measure 110 will be popular with voters.
“It’s a nuanced question, and we need to revisit it and have a deeper, nuanced discussion about what the appropriate solutions should be,” Vial said.
Drug addiction remains a crisis in Oregon. A study by the Department of Health and Human Services found that in 2021, Oregon ranked first in the nation in illicit drug use. Methamphetamine and opioid use is the leading cause of overdoses in rural Oregon, according to an August study by the Journal of the American Medical Association. And overdose deaths in Oregon caused by the synthetic opioid fentanyl have skyrocketed since 2019 — from 70 deaths that year to 510 in 2021, according to the Oregon Health Authority.
The Data for Progress survey also found that more voters think substance abuse is best dealt with by the public health system and not the criminal justice system, 72% versus 24%.
Respondents were also asked about the individual provisions of Measure 110. All components were selected as being at least “somewhat popular” with a majority of respondents.
The last question asked voters if they thought Measure 110 was responsible for the increase in crime and homelessness. A total of 69% of respondents said the increase in crime and homelessness stems from poverty, lack of affordable housing and lack of mental health care, while 28% said it was due lack of arrests.