Candidate: To address the root causes of drug addiction, we need to go beyond decriminalization

Drug decriminalization was sold to Oregonians as a forward-thinking, compassionate, results-oriented solution to the state’s surging addiction problem. The catastrophic fallout from Measure 110 has exposed the empty promises behind the push for decriminalization and their deadly consequences.

Measure 110 has failed

The first step to meaningful change is recognizing what isn’t working. Despite the insistence by proponents, Oregonians are quickly realizing the abject failure of Measure 110 – the state’s controversial and experimental drug decriminalization scheme. Instead of alleviating the burden of substance abuse as advertised, these pro-drug policies have inadvertently led to more addictions, more deaths and more broken communities.

One of the principal goals behind Measure 110 was to reduce the harm caused by drug use. Unfortunately, a laudable objective doesn’t automatically translate to desirable results. Opioid-related overdose deaths, which make up the majority of drug-related fatalities, increased from 462 in 2020 — before Measure 110 was passed — to 628 in 2023. And, experts predict that number could jump to 1,250 deaths once all the data comes in from last year.

For years, Oregon has suffered disproportionately from substance abuse disorders when compared to other states, and Measure 110 has proven itself ineffective in combating this life-and-death issue that’s tearing apart communities across the state. Just this week, Oregon leaders were forced to declare a 90-day state of emergency to address the state’s runaway drug proliferation.

The pitfalls of Oregon’s approach include the following.

Singular focus

Post Measure 110, many Oregon leaders breathed a self-satisfied sigh of relief as though a single-minded piece of legislation would magically address the complex issue of drug addiction. At the expense of the most vulnerable and susceptible members of our communities, this deadly experiment has failed to address the root causes of drug addiction such as insufficient treatment and recovery programs, socioeconomic challenges and mental health disorders.

Soft-on-crime policies

Oregon’s full embrace of soft-on-crime policies has had an indirect yet profound impact on the proliferation of drug use. By fully decriminalizing the use of even the most hardcore and deadly substances, the state effectively removed the only legal mechanism by which authorities could compel individuals struggling with addiction into recovery programs. The reclassification of drug use has left those suffering from substance abuse disorders to fend for themselves.

Enabling homelessness

There’s a strong link between substance abuse disorders and homelessness. Not only does drug addiction make it harder for an individual to maintain stable housing, AND employment, but the experience of homelessness can encourage drug use. In addition to exploding rates of addiction, Oregon has one of the highest rates of homelessness in the entire country, according to federal estimates. The state’s inability to improve the homelessness epidemic is exacerbating drug use.

Failure to address fentanyl

Fentanyl is widely recognized as the fuel behind Oregon’s skyrocketing overdose rates. Up to 50 times stronger than heroin, this deadly poison is a game-changer in the public’s fight against drugs. Tragically, decriminalization doesn’t effectively address this hidden threat because it’s laced into commonly used drugs such as oxycodone, heroin and cocaine — all of which Measure 110 has enabled people to abuse without the intervention of recovery.

Lives over ideology

Decriminalization is a crucial part of addressing substance abuse disorders, but the state’s myopic focus has neglected critical elements of a holistic strategy. Lifting the guardrails on drug use without providing the requisite support fails those struggling with substance abuse disorders and the larger community. Decriminalizing drugs alone only makes the situation worse.

As a proud member of Clackamas County, I’m running for Commission to protect our community from the failed drug policies of the state. We need to put lives over ideology by addressing the foundational causes of substance abuse disorders rather than embracing experimental policies in the name of woke-isms.

I’m proposing a holistic, treatment-oriented approach that heals the individual by providing personalized mental health services, accessible treatment options and economic opportunities. This comprehensive strategy is the most effective way to return Clackamas’s most vulnerable into functioning members of this wonderful community.

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