Oregon Measure 110 Passes, Making Oregon the First US State to Decriminalize Hard Drugs

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Measure 110, the Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act, passed with a comfortable 17-point margin in Oregon on November 3.

Total Reported 2,286,060
Source: The New York Times

With the passage of Measure 110, Oregonians who possess small amounts of drugs will no longer receive criminal records and criminal punishments. Instead, they will receive minor fines.

Per this measure, possession of Schedule I-III V controlled substance has been reclassified from a Class A Misdemeanor resulting in up to one year in jail and $6,250 fine, to a Class E Violation resulting in a $100 fine or a completed health assessment. Measure 110 also reclassified the possession of a Schedule IV controlled substance from a Class C misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a $1,250 fine, to a Class E Violation resulting in a $100 fine or a completed health assessment.

Oregon will also establish a drug addiction treatment program funded by its excess marijuana tax revenue. The $100 fine that comes with a Class E violation can be waived if the person receiving them is assessed at an Addiction Recovery Center. During this assessment, people with drug addictions will be connected to appropriate treatment and recovery services.

It is important to note that the passage of measure 110, has NOT legalized all drugs and controlled substances in Oregon. No change has also been made in the criminal code for delivery, manufacture, and other commercial drug offenses. Other crimes that may be associated with drug use, such as driving under the influence and theft, still will be enforced as they were prior to the passage of this initiative.

Definition of Controlled Substance Schedules

The Federal Government under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) divides drugs and other substances considered “controlled substances” into five schedules. An updated and complete list of the schedules is published annually in Title 21 Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) §§1308.11 through 1308.15. Substances are placed in their respective schedules based on whether they have a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, their relative abuse potential, and likelihood of causing dependence when abused. Some examples of the drugs in each schedule are listed below.

Drug ScheduleDefinition Per Title 21 Code of Federal RegulationsExamples
Schedule ISubstances in this schedule have no currently accepted medical use in the United States, a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and a high potential for abuse.
Some examples of substances listed in Schedule I are: Heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis), peyote, methaqualone, and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (“Ecstasy”).
Schedule IISubstances in this schedule have a high potential for abuse which may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.Examples of Schedule II narcotics include: hydromorphone (Dilaudid®), methadone (Dolophine®), meperidine (Demerol®), oxycodone (OxyContin®, Percocet®), and fentanyl (Sublimaze®, Duragesic®).  Other Schedule II narcotics include: morphine, opium, codeine, and hydrocodone.

Examples of Schedule IIN stimulants include: amphetamine (Dexedrine®, Adderall®), methamphetamine (Desoxyn®), and methylphenidate (Ritalin®).

Other Schedule II substances include: amobarbital, glutethimide, and pentobarbital.
Schedule IIISubstances in this schedule have a potential for abuse less than substances in Schedules I or II and abuse may lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence.Examples of Schedule III narcotics include: products containing not more than 90 milligrams of codeine per dosage unit (Tylenol with Codeine®), and buprenorphine (Suboxone®).

Examples of Schedule IIIN non-narcotics include: benzphetamine (Didrex®), phendimetrazine, ketamine, and anabolic steroids such as Depo®-Testosterone.
Schedule IVSubstances in this schedule have a low potential for abuse relative to substances in Schedule III.Examples of Schedule IV substances include: alprazolam (Xanax®), carisoprodol (Soma®), clonazepam (Klonopin®), clorazepate (Tranxene®), diazepam (Valium®), lorazepam (Ativan®), midazolam (Versed®), temazepam (Restoril®), and triazolam (Halcion®).
Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)

What did Measure 110 change about drug possession offenses?

Oregon Measure 110 reclassifies personal, non-commercial drug possession offenses. Possession of a controlled substance in Schedule I-IV, such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamines, was reclassified from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class E violation resulting in a $100 fine or a completed health assessment. Individuals who manufacture or distribute illegal drugs are still subject to a criminal penalty. The Oregon Criminal Justice Commission estimated that convictions for possession of a controlled substance would decrease by 3,679 or 90.7%.

Drug SchedulesCharge prior to the electionExisting maximum penaltyCharge proposed by the initiativeProposed maximum penalty
Schedule IClass A misdemeanorOne year in jail and $6,250 fineClass E violation$100 fine or completed health assessment
Schedule IIClass A misdemeanorOne year in jail and $6,250 fineClass E violation$100 fine or completed health assessment
Schedule IIIClass A misdemeanorOne year in jail and $6,250 fineClass E violation$100 fine or completed health assessment
Schedule IVClass C misdemeanor30 days in jail and $1,250 fineClass E violation$100 fine or completed health assessment

The health assessments are conducted through addiction recovery centers and include a substance use disorder screening by a certified alcohol and drug counselor. Health assessments must be completed within 45 days of the violation.

How is the drug addiction treatment and recovery program funded?

The initiative established the Drug Treatment and Recovery Services Fund that would receive funds from the Oregon Marijuana Account and state savings from reductions in arrests, incarceration, and official supervision. Before transferring funds from the Oregon Marijuana Account to other recipients, the initiative required that all revenue in excess of $11.25 million be transferred to the Drug Treatment and Recovery Services Fund every quarter.

The Oversight and Accountability Council established by the Director of the Oregon Health Authority would give grants from the fund to government or community-run organizations to create addiction recovery centers. The centers must provide immediate medical or other treatment 24 hours a day, health assessments, intervention plans, case management services, and peer support and outreach.

Who was behind the campaigns surrounding Measure 110?

Yes on 110 led the campaign in support of this initiative to decriminalize drugs. There are four ballot measure committees—IP 44, A More Humane Approach – Yes on 110 Committee, More Treatment for a Better Oregon: Yes on 110, and Washington County Justice Initiative PAC—registered in support of Measure 110. The committees reported receiving nearly $6 million in cash and in-kind contributions. The largest contributor was the Drug Policy Alliance, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that actively promotes drug policy reform legislation. Drug Policy Alliance contributed over $4.5 million.

“Oregonians have always been early adopters of drug policies that shift the emphasis towards health and away from punishment. The idea behind this groundbreaking effort is simple: people suffering from addiction need help, not criminal punishments. Instead of arresting and jailing people for using drugs, the measure would fund a range of services to help people get their lives back on track.”

Theshia Naidoo, Managing Director of Criminal Justice Law and Policy at Drug Policy Action

Decriminalization: The Way Forward in the Failed War on Drugs

We applaud Oregon for becoming the first state in the Nation to decriminalize all Schedule I-IV drugs. Decriminalization is a crucial part of shifting to a health and science-based framework in combatting drug addiction.

Decriminalization is important because criminal records ruin people’s lives, stigmatize them, and prevent them from getting housing, jobs, loans, and more. As a result, criminal records can make it much harder to recover. A fear of criminal punishments also makes many people with addictions afraid to get treatment.

We hope that the passage of Measure 110, the Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act, can inspire other states like California to follow suit in adopting a non-punitive, compassionate approach towards drug addiction. Please reach out to us, if you are interested in learning more about Oregon Measure 110.

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