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U.S. Briefs: Oregon makes drugs illegal again

Three years after state residents vote to decriminalize narcotics, lawmakers reverse course

Patrick T. Fallon / AFP via Getty Images

U.S. Briefs: Oregon makes drugs illegal again
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State lawmakers are reintroducing criminal penalties for the possession of small amounts of drugs, including heroin, fentanyl, and methamphetamine. On Feb. 29, lawmakers in the Oregon House approved House Bill 4002 a little more than three years after state residents voted to decriminalize small amounts of illicit drugs. The state Senate approved the measure on March 1, along with a $211 million funding package, and sent it to Gov. Tina Kotek’s desk to be signed into law. If Kotek approves the bill, it would take effect in September. After that, anyone found in possession of the drugs could face probation or up to six months in jail. The bill also would allow offenders to receive drug treatment in place of criminal penalties. The bill would effectively roll back Measure 110, which voters approved in November 2020. That legislation ended criminal penalties for offenders and redirected tax revenue from marijuana sales to fund substance use treatment programs across the state. —Lauren Canterberry

New York

The state attorney general has accused a leading meat company of lying about its commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Letitia James filed a lawsuit on Feb. 28 against JBS USA Food Co. and JBS USA Food Co. Holdings (JBS USA), the American subsidiaries of a Brazilian meat processor. James singled out the company’s claim that it will achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040. She says that has no basis in reality and dupes environmentally conscious consumers. According to the filing, beef production emits the most greenhouse gases of any major food commodity. The lawsuit seeks to force JBS USA to stop advertising its net zero claims, repay profits gained by false statements, and pay civil penalties. —Emma Freire


While Joe Biden and Donald Trump swept statewide presidential primary results on Super Tuesday, voters in San Francisco weighed in on more localized concerns over spiking overdose deaths, rampant break-ins, and widespread homelessness. Propositions E and F—two ballot measures rolling back progressive drug and policing policies—both passed in the historically liberal city. Prop F requires people receiving city welfare benefits to pass drug tests, and Prop E gives police more freedom to engage in car chases and use surveillance tech. Proponents of the two measures raised $2.5 million in support, and both the San Francisco Republican Party and the city’s Democratic mayor, who faces reelection this year, gave their endorsements. —Grace Snell

Scott Olson/Getty Images


The Chicago Board of Education voted unanimously on Feb. 22 to remove police officers from the city’s schools. This year, 16 high schools have two officers on campus and 23 high schools have one. More than half the city’s high schools do not have a police presence, and uniformed officers are not present in the city’s elementary schools. Chicago public school graduates gathered outside the school district’s downtown headquarters to celebrate the decision, which reversed a split 2020 vote in favor of police on school grounds. Proponents of the change argue police are more prevalent in black-majority schools and often target students of color and those with disabilities. The board instructed Chicago Public Schools to create a holistic approach to student safety that “addresses root causes and contributing factors.” But those in favor of a law enforcement presence accused the board of stripping power from local schools. They argued administrators should be allowed to decide for themselves what makes their teachers and student body feel secure. —Addie Offereins

Audrey McAvoy/AP


Onerous building regulations in the Aloha State account for 58 percent of new condominium costs and are the most restrictive in the nation, according to a University of Hawaii report released March 4. The regulations stifle new construction, further limiting affordable housing supply, driving up prices, and forcing out residents, according to the report. The median price of a two-bedroom condo is $672,000—more than double the cost in the average state—and regulatory costs account for $387,000 of that total. Only California and New York have higher median condo prices. Surveys and the 2021 U.S. Census show growing numbers of Native Hawaiians are moving to the continental United States to find cheaper housing. The report notes infrastructure costs for things like roads and sewers often fall to developers instead of local governments, further inflating prices. —Sharon Dierberger


Calvin University President Wiebe Boer resigned Feb. 26 amid allegations he sent “unwelcome and inappropriate communication and attention toward a non-student member of the campus community,” according to school officials. Calvin is a private Christian college in Grand Rapids with an enrollment of more than 3,000 students. Boer, a Calvin alumnus who grew up in Nigeria as the son of missionaries, took the reins at the university in 2022 after a career as an oil executive. The school stressed that the report about Boer “did not include allegations of sexually explicit communication or physical contact, but the alleged conduct is concerning and inappropriate.” Boer was popular with students, who welcomed the addition of a football program in 2023 during his tenure. Calvin’s newspaper, however, reported that vandals spray-painted “justice for victims of Boer’s sexual harassment” near a science building and “students deserve the truth” beside a campus café following his resignation. —Kim Henderson


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