Oregon Backtracks on Groundbreaking Drug Law

(LibertySons.org) – Oregon voters passed the Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act in November 2020, paving the way for a groundbreaking social experiment. The new drug law decriminalized possession of all illegal substances in small amounts, with supporters insisting that addiction shouldn’t condemn a person to a criminal record. Now, in response to the overwhelming opioid crisis that has only worsened over the past few years, the Beaver State is backpedaling on its decision.

The Guardian reports that Oregon lawmakers had high hopes for the move, which placed compassion and treatment over punishment for users. Supporters believed the approach would be more beneficial and cost-effective than incarceration. They may also have failed to take numerous other factors into account, and now numerous Oregon cities are struggling to keep up with surges of fentanyl deaths.

The problem reached a head in January 2024 when officials in Multnomah County declared a 90-day fentanyl emergency over the opioid plague overtaking Portland. Axios shares that Oregon saw 77 fentanyl deaths between September 2018 and September 2019. Four years later, the state reported 1,268 deaths resulting from the deadly drug — an average of 317 fatal overdoses each year. Lawmakers are working on new legislation to tackle the problem, and Oregon drug laws could change once again as a result.

RTI International shares that many cities have seen increases in crime due to the effects of the pandemic, inflation, increased poverty, reduced availability of affordable housing, civil unrest, and a “rapidly changing drug market.” The statistics indicate that Oregon cities aren’t alone in seeing upward trends of drug overdoses and homelessness, and public perception of the law’s effects may be most to blame for the shift in attitude. Behavioral Health Resource Network, which is helping to fund the state’s program, plans to publish a peer-reviewed study on the state’s approach, so a clearer picture of its successes and failures should be available soon.

Oregon presently ranks 17 in the United States for fentanyl deaths. States with the highest overdose statistics currently include Maryland, California, West Virginia, Nebraska, Wyoming, Oklahoma, and Delaware.

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