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Oregon to reverse decriminalization experiment to crack down on rising overdose deaths

Oregon lawmakers are looking to reverse an experimental project that decriminalized possession of all drugs as fatal overdose numbers increase in the Beaver State.

The experimental law lasted three years before the lawmakers considered reversing it, and are now aiming to make small possession of drugs such as fentanyl, heroin, and cocaine illegal. The measure has already passed both state houses, and is waiting for a signature from Gov. Tina Kotek (D-OR).

“What we have tried to do is give law enforcement tools they need to intervene in the moment and hand [addicted people] off to the behavioral health mental world,” Democratic State Rep. Jason Kropfl told the Wall Street Journal. “The overarching goal is how do you sometimes give a little bit of a push to treatment.”

Oregon has seen a steep 1,500% rise in overdose deaths since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the largest increase in the country, according to federal data. It also comes as the U.S. sees high fentanyl overdose rates.

The original bill that allowed recreational drug use had intended to keep drug users out of prison and into rehab. But, lawmakers found that if people had no desire to stop the drug use, and there was no punishment for using drugs, then they would continue to do so.

The push for the recriminalization of drug use comes after business owners, law enforcement officers, and state residents bemoaned rampant drug use in public. Residents in other blue West Coast states are also calling for stricter punishments for drug use.

Under the new bill, drug users will be offered a chance to go to rehab, before facing any potential misdemeanor charges. However, the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon said it was concerned that the possibility would only benefit rich, white people.

“People with money, connections, or racial privilege will be most likely to get into limited treatment spaces,” the statement said. “Black, brown, and low-income people will continue to be jailed at the highest rates.”

If drug users are caught smoking or doing drugs, then police officers will have the right to confiscate the drugs, and charge the users with a misdemeanor that is punishable by up to six months in jail.

-Washington Examiner

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