Blue State Stopped Jailing Fentanyl Users. It’s Going About As Well As You’d Expect

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Brandon Poulter Contributor
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Oregon is seeing drug overdose rates skyrocket after it stopped jailing users of fentanyl and other hard drugs.

Nearly 60% of Oregon voters backed Proposition 110 in November 2020, which fines drug users $100 for possession of the drugs or requires them to complete a health assessment with substance abuse professionals instead of fining them up to $6,250, or sentencing them to possible jail time, as previous laws required. Critics of the proposition say that it has resulted in open-air drug use in the city and skyrocketing homelessness, according to the NYT. (‘Feel Like A Prisoner In My Home’: Blue City Residents Steer Clear Of Homeless Encampments After Threats, Assaults)

Hypodermic needles litter the ground in the South Bronx on March 13, 2019. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

“At four in the afternoon the streets can feel like dealer central,” Jennifer Myrle, a Portland coffee shop owner, told the NYT.

“At least 20 to 30 people in ski masks, hoodies and backpacks, usually on bikes and scooters. There’s no point calling the cops,” Myrle added. She recently went for a walk on a Tuesday morning around noon and described seeing a woman perform oral sex on a man in the open.

Oregon has seen a surge in drug overdoses since the measure was implemented, and between 2020 and 2022, Portland lost nearly 3% of its residents. More than 600 people died of overdoses in 2019 in Oregon, and that number soared to nearly 1,200 in 2022, according to KOIN 6 News.

“Portland is a homeless drug addict’s slice of paradise,” a local homeless person, Noah Nethers, told the NYT. Nethers lives next to a church in a tent where he and his girlfriend smoke meth and fentanyl.

Critics of the proposition said that few drug users took the option to get treatment, according to the NYT. A large majority of Oregon voters believe Proposition 110 has been bad for Oregon and that the root cause of homeless is drug addiction and mental illness, with 60% of Oregonians agreeing with both statements, according to an April poll of 500 Oregon voters done by DHM Research.

But others disagree.

“The story out there is, ‘Measure 110 doesn’t work because people don’t want treatment.’ That is simply not true,” director of Cielo Treatment Center Solara Salazar told the NYT.

“I think Measure 110 needs more time,” Rev. Sara Fischer told the NYT.

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