Brian Pacheco [email protected]
Portland, OR – September 18, 2023 – Today, two initiative petitions aimed at undoing Measure 110 were filed. The complicated, costly, and ineffective ballot measures announced today are not a solution but, instead, a false promise of change and a return to the failed war on drugs. There is more than 50 years of evidence that locking people up for possessing drugs or forcing them into court-ordered programs does not work. Rather than returning to a broken system, we need to look critically at finding new and more effective ways to implement programs and services that puts public health first. While Measure 110 is now delivering critical new funding for addiction services, including treatment, these petitions would:
“Oregonians have real concerns about the suffering and challenges they see in their communities. Nothing proposed in this initiative provides real solutions, instead it reverts to failed drug war tactics: more criminalization, coercive interventions, and to disappear people who are struggling without addressing the conditions that lead to homelessness and addiction,” said Kassandra Frederique, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Recriminalizing drugs and forced treatment are false promises of change but will increase overdose risk, increase racial disparities in the criminal legal system, disrupt treatment for those who seek it, and saddle people with criminal records that will serve as barriers to housing, employment, education, and other services for the rest of their lives. Policymakers in Oregon must strengthen Measure 110 by expanding and making more accessible the services and supports people need to both address their needs while ensuring safety for our communities, without criminalization and coercion.”
“My son died of a heroin overdose when personal possession was a crime. Criminalization and threat of arrest did not save him, and it will not save the thousands of sons and daughters in need of treatment in Oregon today,” said Julia Pinsky of Jackson County, who started Max’s Mission in memory of her son. “The disorder, crime and human suffering on Oregon’s streets are unacceptable. We need to demand that politicians and bureaucrats stop dragging their feet, and finally deliver the housing, drug treatment, and mental health care that people need, and voters have overwhelmingly supported. The fentanyl crisis has made the need for these services even more critical. I don’t want any more families to experience the devastation of losing their child.”
Measure 110 is already ramping up investment in long-needed services. Detox and recovery beds are being provided, new counseling staff are being hired, and people can access addiction services, including treatment, more quickly, closer to home and free of charge. As people seeking treatment literally line up every morning at Portland detox centers, and treatment provided by Measure 110 has increased 44%, the petition(s) filed today would return Oregon to the failed model of criminalizing addiction that has never worked and puts Measure 110 funding at risk.
“Drug treatment only works if the person experiencing it is committed to getting sober. We need more – not fewer – detox facilities so that people have a place to sober up and make clear-headed decisions about treatment. We just opened a new detox center in Portland with Measure 110 dollars and are opening clinics in SW Portland and in Newberg. This proposal puts massive uncertainty into the system just as we finally have full funding and are able to open our doors,” said Katie Nicosia, NP, Addictions Medical Provider and co-owner of Recovery Works NW.
Shannon Jones is the CEO of the Oregon Change Clinic, which provides drug counseling, housing, and intensive outpatient services funded with Measure 110 dollars. Her organization serves more than 300 people each year and has been able to dramatically increase services thanks to Measure 110 and has remodeled a formerly dilapidated hotel near downtown Portland that is providing housing and treatment.
“It is disappointing that the people behind these petitions didn’t talk to Measure 110 providers. We could have told them what is needed to make the measure more effective. We need more support, and the entire system needs increased funding and people need a roof over their head for recovery to be successful. Arresting and jailing people with addiction means they will end up right back on the street with increased overdose risk and a criminal record that will make the road to recovery that much harder,” said Shannon Jones, CEO of the Oregon Change Clinic.
Measure 110 reduced the penalties for possession of controlled substances, but it did not make them legal. Under state law, police can confiscate drugs and immediately connect people to local treatment and addiction services in addition to writing a ticket. Providers say that the public is fed up with the long waiting lists for detox and treatment services and there needs to be increased funding for sobering centers. In a time when the public defender system is also in a crisis, reinstituting criminal penalties would be unjust, ineffective, and would overwhelm the courts.
Larry Turner is the co-founder and a community navigator at Fresh Out in Portland, and a leader in the Oregon Black, Brown and Indigenous Advocacy Coalition, a statewide organization that works to increase the power of people and communities most negatively impacted by the failed war on drugs and uphold and support organizations of color in those communities.
“Drug use has been a problem in many neighborhoods for decades and overdose rates were skyrocketing before passage of Measure 110,” said Larry Turner, co-founder and a community navigator of Fresh Out in Portland. “Before passing new laws that will take us back to the days when Black and brown people were disproportionately harmed by criminalization, we need to make Measure 110 more effective without overturning the law and going backwards. We need unified support from leaders committed to providing services to people who need them quickly, demanding accountability from local officials; and strongly supporting first responders and service providers. Let’s enforce the laws we have.”
The petitions filed today will require judges to become behavioral health specialists and would mean increased costs for prosecutors, public defenders, police, and court personnel. It would set up expensive new bureaucracies and unwieldy barriers to care.
“At least one of these petitions is 40 pages long. These haphazard proposals would be costly, complicated, and set up to fail by overburdening the criminal system, which has never successfully reduced addiction or drug use in our communities,” said Tera Hurst, Executive Director of Health Justice Recovery Alliance. “If the chief petitioners really want to reduce addiction in our communities, they should join us in calling for more funding for effective and accessible voluntary treatment instead of wasting taxpayer dollars on a criminal system boondoggle.”
About the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA)
The Drug Policy Alliance is the leading organization in the U.S. working to end the drug war, repair its harms, and build a non-punitive, equitable, and regulated drug market. We envision a world that embraces the full humanity of people, regardless of their relationship to drugs. We advocate that the regulation of drugs be grounded in evidence, health, equity, and human rights. In collaboration with other movements and at every policy level, we change laws, advance justice, and save lives. Learn more at drugpolicy.org.