Police in this state are now no longer to arrest criminals for being in possession of hard drugs like heroin and meth

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OREGON – With the recent ballot measure having taken effect on February 1st, police in Oregon are no longer allowed to arrest an individual for being in possession of small amounts of hard narcotics like heroin, methamphetamine, oxycodone, LSD and other typically categorized “hard” drugs.

Considering Oregon is the first state in the United States to enact a decriminalization of this magnitude, there is both adoration of the move due to the progressive nature of this effort – and of course, there’s duly afforded skepticism of the caveats this move could present.

Instead of individuals found in possession of certain narcotics being arrested, as they would have been prior to this law going into effect, individuals instead could face a possible citation of $100 or a health assessment that could eventually lead to mandated addiction counseling.

Kassandra Frederique, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, had the following to say about the measure the day it went into effect:

“Today, the first domino of our cruel and inhumane war on drugs has fallen, setting off what we expect to be a cascade of other efforts centering health over criminalization.”

One of the biggest talking points that was used in the effort to have Ballot Measure 110 brought into law is the notion that funneling individuals through the criminal justice system for drug possession was not yielding the desired outcomes.

The logic or rationale employed by proponents of the effort cited that individuals in possession of hard drugs that wound up getting locked up would then have difficulty with job prospects and even attaining housing after working their way through the criminal justice system due to them having a criminal record for possession of narcotics.

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As mentioned, there are some that aren’t quite on board with the wide-eyed optimism being afforded to Ballot Measure 110 becoming a reality.

Apparently, at least two dozen district attorneys had opposed the measure, alleging that embracing this with open arms was both reckless and could lead to an increase in the acceptability of dangerous drugs being present in society.

These concerns brought up by these district attorneys aren’t really that far-fetched, considering that there are numerous studies that suggests consumption of narcotics like methamphetamine bear strong links to engaging in violent or general criminal behavior based upon the pharmacological effects of the drug.

Nonetheless, with the passing of this law, there’s also some amendments that come in tow with regard to tax revenue garnered from the recreational marijuana industry within Oregon.

Seeing that possession of hard drugs has been effectively decriminalized in Oregon, one of the new avenues to address possession of narcotics is enrollment in addiction/treatment centers.

Obviously, these centers will cost money to build, staff and operate. 

As it stands, the ballot measure has capped the amount of tax revenue attained via recreational marijuana sales that can go toward schools, mental health facilities with regard to alcoholism, state police, cities, and counties at $45 million per year.

Every dollar in tax revenue earned from recreational marijuana sales after the $45 million cap will then be diverted toward the “Drug Treatment and Recovery Services Fund”.

To give an idea as to how much tax revenue this endeavor to fund drug treatment and recovery services could amass, in the 2020 fiscal year marijuana tax revenues peaked at the $133 million mark.

Those numbers reflected a 30% increase over the 2019 fiscal year and a 545% increase with regard to the 2016 fiscal year.

And the expectation is those tax revenues are only going to increase in Oregon.

John Larson, who serves as the president of the Oregon Education Association, believes that once these rehab and treatment centers are funded, the state should reexamine the tax allotment being generously directed in the favor of this initiative:

“In the future, as Oregon’s treatment programs reach full funding, the state should evaluate what other services would benefit from our continually growing marijuana tax revenues.”

Even Democratic State Senator Floyd Prozanski agrees with the notion brought up by Larson, saying that simply keeping the allocated tax allotment as is indefinitely could result in the Drug Treatment and Recovery Services Fund becoming “oversaturated with revenue”:

“It would be foolish for us as a Legislature to think that the voters would want us to put hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of millions of dollars into a program that would be, at that point, I would think, having a gold standard.”

But the state senator also noted that he doesn’t see this fund becoming “oversaturated anytime soon”.

The Oregon Criminal Justice Commission estimates that roughly 3,700 fewer people in Oregon will find themselves convicted of either felony or misdemeanor possession of controlled substance following this recent decriminalization of hard drugs.

The drugs that were specified on the ballot measure with which people can no longer be arrested for possession of include LSD, cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, methadone, oxycodone and MDMA (also known as ecstasy).

Per the passed legislation, these addiction recovery centers must become available by October 1st of 2021 and there must be one center allocated within each current managed care organization service area.

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