The Price of Drug Decriminalization Has Caught Up With Oregon

Political News

The Centers for Disease Control delivered the grim news to Oregon residents late last week. Overdose deaths from fentanyl spiked more than 1,500% from 2019 (78) to 2023 (1,268). The reason can’t be imagined away.


In 2020, Oregon passed the most liberal drug decriminalization law in U.S. history. It decriminalized the possession of specific amounts of illegal drugs and put more money into treatment.

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But the people of Oregon are now paying for their shortsightedness. The city of Portland has already begun cracking down on public drug use, as many open spaces and downtown sidewalks have been turned into drug bazaars. There are now several bills waiting to be considered that would repeal most of the legalization bill’s more lenient provisions.

Republicans in the state legislature are calling for recriminalizing possession of drugs as a class A misdemeanor. Democrats want drug possession recriminalized as a class C misdemeanor. 

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What happened in Oregon? People gave up and gave in. Now, thousands of ordinary people are paying the price of addiction and death because of the cowardice of the left and left-leaning libertarians.

“Enforcement is just too hard,” they whined. “It fills the jails with people who only wanted to have a good time and fills up the courts with ‘victimless crimes.'”

By decriminalizing drugs, state politicians sent a clear and powerful message to all: Do as you wish. The streets are yours.



Measure 110 garnered support from 58% of voters, including 74% of voters in Portland’s Multnomah County. The law that resulted went into effect in February 2021. According to an August survey by Emerson College, 56% of Oregonians support a total repeal of Measure 110; 64% support changes to the law.

“It became very, very obvious that what was happening on the streets of Portland, and what was happening on Main Street, Oregon, was unacceptable,” said state senate majority leader Kate Lieber, a Democrat who co-chairs the legislator’s addiction committee.

Why is this such as surprise? Experts across the country warned Oregon lawmakers of the almost certain consequences of drug decriminalization. Where do the tens of thousands of addicts and the relatives of the 1,200 dead Oregonians go for justice?

Neither side has the answers. Punitive measures for drug possession are overkill.

The proposed bill also carries harsher sentences for drug dealers, wider access to medication for opioid addiction, and expanded recovery and housing services along with drug prevention programs.

Republican lawmakers say the bill falls short. Their own proposals include up to a year in jail for drug possession, with the option for treatment and probation in lieu of jail time.

“We need serious penalties in order to make sure that people are getting into treatment, as opposed to staying on the street,” said state senate minority leader Tim Knopp.


Spoken like someone who knows absolutely nothing about drug addiction. Treatment only works when an addict is ready for it. And even the prospect of prison rarely results in an addict kicking their addiction.

Twelve-step programs help some people, but not all. More recently, street counseling programs appear to help addicts get ready for serious treatment. But it’s still an uphill battle. 

Once a drug has its hooks in an addict, the lifelong battle to stay clean begins. That’s why the stupidity of this law was been made manifest by the radical increase in the number of addicts. It’s not going to save the taxpayers a farthing. 

And it has cost 1,200 people their lives and left thousands more suffering from addiction.

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