Reforms to Oregon’s drug decriminalization and treatment law could see further revisions in the upcoming legislative session, but lawmakers disagree on how sweeping the changes should be.
Speaking at the 2023 Oregon State of Reform Health Policy Conference in Portland Tuesday, lawmakers agreed that Measure 110 needs reforms following criticism that it’s opened the floodgates for dangerous drugs while sluggishly rolling out more treatment.
The Legislature made changes earlier this year to the voter-approved ballot measure intended to clear bureaucratic hurdles to treatment. Now lawmakers are debating how far further changes should go as opponents of Measure 110 mount repeal efforts.
“I think most of you know we are struggling with the rollout and implementation of ballot Measure 110,” state Rep. Rob Nosse, chair of the Oregon House Behavioral Health and Health Care Committee, said.
Despite the problems with Measure 110, the Portland Democrat said he was committed to its core goal of treating addiction as a public health matter and not as law enforcement matter. Nosse said that part of the difficulty with implementation was for unanticipated reasons, including a supercharged meth that has entered the illicit drug supply along with the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl.
However, Nosse said he anticipates the Legislature will address the issue of public drug use on sidewalks, parks and public transit in response to complaints from local officials. He also said he expects the Legislature to attempt to address a state court case that’s made it difficult for law enforcement to prosecute drug dealers.
Nosse also said the state needs more medical detox facilities and sobering centers to help people recover from highly addictive drugs.
State Rep. Ed Diehl, R-Stayton, said changes to Measure 110 need to go further.
“I think one element of it has to be re-criminalization of possession — not to throw people in jail, but to give some incentive to pursue treatment,” he said.
Diehl mentioned a treatment provider in Eugene recently reported seeing less demand, speculating that it was a result of Measure 110. He also faulted the Measure 110 Oversight and Accountability Council, which has faced criticism and turnover, and said it should be disbanded entirely.
Nosse quipped that what Diehl was calling for sounded like repeal. Diehl added that he didn’t want to take money away for treatment, however.
State Rep. Thuy Tran, D- Portland, also said that for Measure 110 to work, Oregon needs to address its shortage of behavioral health care workers.
“We got to grow our own, OK?” she said. “It’s just not going to magically appear.”