Oregon Set To Recriminalize Certain Substances

Naomi Carr
Dr. David Miles
Written by Naomi Carr on 02 April 2024
Medically reviewed by Dr. David Miles on 07 June 2024

In Oregon, the possession of certain substances became decriminalized in 2021. Now, Oregon’s Governor, Tina Kotek, intends to implement new legislation to recriminalize these drugs, in an attempt to fight the state’s increasing overdose and drug abuse problems.

Oregon Set To Recriminalize Certain Substances

Measure 110

Voting for Measure 110, or the Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act, occurred in 2020, with 58.5% of voters agreeing with the proposed legislation.

Measure 110 states that possession of a small amount of various drugs, including methamphetamine, fentanyl, heroin, and cocaine, would lead to reduced penalties. This was intended to prevent individuals from serving time in jail for personal use and to improve access to substance use disorder services and healthcare.

The act was passed in February 2021, making Oregon the first state to decriminalize these drugs. It was funded and backed by various organizations, including the Drug Policy Alliance. Over $260 million was allocated to the initiative, intended to help those with addictions to access healthcare, housing, and employment.

However, in the state over the following three years, there were reportedly low numbers of individuals seeking substance use disorder treatment, increasing numbers of opioid and drug-related deaths, and increasing reports of public drug use.

House Bill 4002

Governor Tina Kotek intends to sign and enact House Bill 4002 (HB4002), which will come into effect in September 2024. This legislation intends to reverse some of the changes created by Measure 110, which are believed, in part, to be responsible for an increase in drug use and deaths within the state.

Despite 58.5% of voters choosing to pass Measure 110, 64% now report that they want some or all of these changes to be repealed.

HB4002 will make the possession of small amounts of drugs a misdemeanor, thereby recriminalizing these drugs. Following an arrest for possession, individuals will be sentenced to up to six months in jail or can choose to utilize substance use disorder treatment instead.

As was the intention with Measure 110, HB4002 aims to help people with substance use disorders seek and receive necessary treatment. HB4002 also states that insurance companies are no longer allowed to seek prior authorization for substance use disorder medications, which is believed to be a barrier to SUD treatment, thereby creating easier access to treatment.

Why is the legislation changing?

In January 2024, Tina Kotek declared Portland, Oregon to be in a ‘Fentanyl State of Emergency’. Between 2019 and 2022, opioid deaths in Oregon tripled, many of which are believed to be linked to fentanyl abuse. Although Measure 110 is not the sole reason for this rise in fentanyl use and overdose, it is considered to be a contributing factor to these increases.

Measure 110 was intended to increase people’s ability and willingness to access treatment. However, reports show that this has not occurred under this legislation. As such, HB4002 intends to rectify this issue by increasing available funding and services for addiction and mental health, along with reinstating legal repercussions as deterrents for use and possession.

Potential issues

While there are many potential benefits of HB4002, some governmental and healthcare professionals are questioning if this change in legislation is going to create new issues, such as:

  • The Oregon Criminal Justice Commission predicts that HB4002 is going to disproportionately impact people of color, leading to a higher number of convictions involving Black people than white. 
  • Police departments and prison services may be unable to meet the demands created by a sudden change in arrests and prison sentences.
  • With limited placements among treatment services, individuals who choose treatment over jail time may be unable to receive these services due to increased demands and could end up serving time regardless.

There are differing opinions about the benefits of decriminalization of substances. Some believe that it contributes to increased use and public exposure to drug abuse, while others believe that it reduces stigma and provides an opportunity for individuals to seek treatment without judgment.

Gov. Tina Kotek is reportedly signing HB4002 into legislation within the following weeks, which will take effect by September 2024.

Resources:

  1. Oregon Health Authority. (2021). Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act (Measure 110). State of Oregon. Retrieved from
  2. State of Oregon. (2019). Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act. Oregon SOS. Retrieved from
  3. Campbell, J., Shelton, S., & Iyer, K. (2024). Oregon Governor to Sign Bill Re-Criminalizing Possession of Certain Drugs Into Law. CNN. Retrieved from
  4. Oregon Secretary of State. (2023). Oregon Health Authority: Funding and Delivery of Measure 110 Substance Use Disorder Services Shows Progress, but Significant Risks Remain. Oregon SOS. Retrieved from
  5. Oregon Health Authority. (2023). Too Early to Tell: The Challenging Implementation of Measure 110 Has Increased Risks, but the Effectiveness of the Program Has Yet to Be Determined. Oregon SOS. Retrieved from
  6. Oregon Health Authority. (2024). Opioid Overdose Public Health Surveillance Update. Oregon.gov. Retrieved from
  7. Riddle, K. (2024). How Oregon Turned on its Own Trailblazing Drug Law: “Not the Utopia We Were Promised”. The Guardian. Retrieved from
  8. Wilson, C. (2024). Oregon Governor Will Sign Bill to Recriminalize Drugs, Expand Treatment. OPB. Retrieved from
  9. DHM Research. (2023). Measure 110 Oregon Voter Survey. Retrieved from
  10. State of Oregon. (2024). HB4002. Oregon State Legislature. Retrieved from
  11. State of Oregon Newsroom. (2024). Governor Kotek, Chair Vega Pederson, Mayor Wheeler Declare Coordinated Fentanyl Emergencies. Oregon.gov. Retrieved from
  12. Drug Policy Alliance. (2024). Decriminalize Drugs, Invest in Health Services (Deep Dive). Retrieved from

Activity History - Last updated: 07 June 2024, Published date:


Reviewer

David is a seasoned Pharmacist, natural medicines expert, medical reviewer, and pastor. Earning his Doctorate from the Medical University of South Carolina, David received clinical training at several major hospital systems and has worked for various pharmacy chains over the years. His focus and passion has always been taking care of his patients by getting accurate information and thorough education to those who need it most. His motto: "Good Information = Good Outcomes".

Activity History - Medically Reviewed on 01 April 2024 and last checked on 07 June 2024

Medically reviewed by
Dr. David Miles

PharmD

Dr. David Miles

Reviewer

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