Politics

‘Finding Needles’: Liberal State’s Effort To Decriminalize Hard Drugs Turns Disastrous, Critics Say

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Bronson Winslow Contributor
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Critics of Oregon’s Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act have spoken out against the failed attempt to prevent hard drug addiction to substances like meth, heroin, and cocaine, according to ABC outlet KATU.

The act, implemented in 2020, aimed to decriminalize hard drugs for personal use while also providing treatment for addicts, yet the plan has backfired with overdose rates up 20% in 2022, KATU reported. The act intended to reduce the stigma of addiction while addicts sought treatment, yet a majority of addicts in the state have not used the available treatment options.

GOP Oregon gubernatorial candidate Christine Drazan referenced the act, known as Measure 110, as a “terrible idea” because it made the addiction crisis significantly worse, KATU reported. Betsey Johnson, a former veteran lawmaker and unaffiliated gubernatorial candidate, called Measure 110 a “failed experiment.”

“I voted no on Measure 110 because decriminalizing hard drugs like heroin and meth was and is a terrible idea,” said Drazan, “As expected, it has made our addiction crisis worse, not better.” (RELATED: Canadian Province Decriminalizes Hard Drugs As A Means Of Curbing Overdose Deaths)

“If there is no formal or informal pressure on addicted people to seek treatment and recovery and thereby stop using drugs, we should expect continuing high rates of drug use, addiction and attendant harm,” said Keith Humphreys, an addiction researcher and professor at Stanford University and former senior adviser in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, KATU reported.

People have begun to run out of patience, said Scott Winkels, lobbyist for the League of Oregon Cities, KATU reported. “People are going to need to see progress,” Winkels said. “If you’re living in a community where you’re finding needles, how many times do you need to see a needle in a park before you lose your cool?”

Steve Allen, behavioral health director of the Oregon Health Authority, acknowledged the failure of the bill but believes a “true milestone” has been reached as an additional $302 million is being sent to rehab facilities, KATU reported.

Though funding is increasing, the preexisting treatment options did not entice addicts into recovery. One hundred and thirty-six of 16,000 addicts who accessed services entered treatment. Only 9,600 addicts received “harm reduction” services for clean needles and overdose medications, 2,400 received housing and 1,920 obtained peer support, reported KATU.

“The road to get here has not been easy. Oregon is the first state to try such a bold and transformative approach,” Allen told a state Senate committee Wednesday.

According to Oregon law, people caught with hard drugs receive a citation of $100. If they call the health assessment hotline the fine is waived, yet the majority of 3,100 tickets issued have been ignored, KATU reported.

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