Oregon overdose rate jumps 700% after the state decriminalized the possession of hard drugs

After voters in Oregon adopted a ballot proposition to decriminalize all hard narcotics, overdose rates increased by 700%. Ballot measure 110 aimed to help people suffering from drug addiction seek medical care. It was the first of its kind in the United States and went into effect in February 2021 after being passed by the voters the previous year.

Possessing narcotics is no longer a felony or misdemeanor in Oregon following the passage of the measure. People caught with hard narcotics face a maximum fine of $100, which can be waived if the individual getting the ticket phones a public hotline and gets a free health evaluation. If a person is caught with a “personal amount” of narcotics such as heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine, they will only be fined $100.

Only $40 million of the $300 million set aside for public health services to combat addiction has been distributed. According to the Daily Mail, Ballot Measure 110 has mostly had the opposite effect, resulting in more drug-related deaths and the spread of hard drug usage throughout Oregonian communities, rather than more individuals seeking treatment.

Republican state official Lily Morgan stated, “We have overdoses increasing at drastic rates,” adding that “In my community, [there has been] a 700% increase in overdoses and a 120% increase in deaths.” The Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan said that the residents of Oregon approved Ballot Measure 110 to “improve the lives of people, to improve our communities. When the voters of Oregon passed Measure 110, we did so because it was a change of policy in Oregon to improve the lives of people, to improve our communities, and in the years since, we haven’t seen that play out. Instead, in many communities in Oregon, we’ve seen the problem with drug addiction get worse.”

Oregon’s behavioral health director, Steve Allen, recognized that overdoses and overdose fatalities have increased “dramatically,” but he ascribed much of this to an inflow of methamphetamine laced with fentanyl. Allen expressed the idea that as the state’s drug issue improves, overdose deaths would decrease provided public health programs are adequately funded and supported. He explained, “Getting these resources out to the community is incredibly important — not just the harm reduction resources, but people who can support folks who are at risk for overdose.”

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