As Oregon lawmakers look to amend rules on drug use, punishment, law enforcement reactions pour in

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One of the most controversial laws in Oregon over the last few years was voter-approved Measure 110, which rewrote the rules on drug use and punishment in the state.

Reactions are being posted after Oregon lawmakers proposed changes to Measure 110, including expanding addiction treatment coupled with reinstating criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of specified drugs.

Members of a joint House-Senate committee released a proposal and talked to reporters on Tuesday, Jan. 23.

One proposal from lawmakers: making possession of small amounts of specified drugs — cocaine, fentanyl, heroin, methamphetamine and MDMA (or Ecstasy) — a Class C misdemeanor, punishable once again by maximums of 30 days in jail and a $1,250 fine.

Several organizations say the lawmakers didn’t go far enough. The Association of Oregon District Attorneys on Tuesday criticized the proposal. “The details of this proposal will be very important, and while there are a few of the elements of the law enforcement framework included, like recriminalizing possession of a small amount of serious drugs, a C-Misdemeanor is insufficient,” said Umatilla County District Attorney Dan Primus, president of the association.

Several groups have recommended possession become a Class A misdemeanor, with maximum penalties of one year in jail and a $6,250 fine

“Law enforcement needs clear, meaningful, and simple solutions to this crisis. The framework released today is a good starting point but is not there yet,” Primus wrote Tuesday.

The Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association agrees. “While we generally support the co-chair’s proposed plan on HB 4002, we find the low level C-Misdemeanor penalty and the requirement for officers to offer a deflection program instead of arrest to be a complex and resource-intensive approach that we are unable to support,” said Crook County Sheriff John Gautney, president of the sheriffs association.

“The proposal outlined today lacks the necessary incentives for individuals struggling with addiction to actively seek help and places our law enforcement officers in the challenging position of engaging without the tools necessary to be effective,” wrote McMinnville Police Chief Matt Scales, president of the Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police.

The League of Oregon Cities co-signed a release with the three law enforcement associations.

“Oregon’s cities have little authority under Measure 110 to intervene to protect the lives of our residents suffering from addiction or address the community safety and livability issues that stem from rampant drug abuse,” said Hermiston Mayor Dave Drotzmann, president of the league. “The co-chair proposal released today has good components, but still requires cities to rely on a county or non-profit to provide deflections services before we can act-that’s not acceptable.”

Measure 110 never decriminalized possession of all drugs, although critics said that was the message sent to the public when voters passed it by 58%.

Marijuana is not affected. Oregon voters approved a 2014 ballot measure that legalized cannabis for adult use, though it specifically bars public use.

Reporter Peter Wong contributed to this article.


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