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Oregon governor signs law to recriminalize drugs

Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek Associated Press/Photo by Jenny Kane, file

Oregon governor signs law to recriminalize drugs

Oregon’s Democratic Gov. Tina Kotek on Monday signed into law a bill to again make criminal the possession of small amounts of drugs. The state had decriminalized such offenses more than three years before.

Why did the state decriminalize the drugs? In November 2020, voters across the state opted to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of drugs in what was called Ballot Measure 110. The Oregon Senate then passed a law that went into effect in February 2021 implementing that decision.

Why has the state chosen to recriminalize the drugs? Since 2019, drug overdose deaths have steadily increased in Oregon. In 2019, the state had fewer than 300 overdose deaths, according to statistics from the Oregon Health Authority. It had more than 470 deaths in 2020. But, after the state decriminalized possession, overdose deaths jumped to roughly 740 in 2021 and almost 960 in 2022. Incomplete data for 2023 from the state suggested that around 640 people died from drug use that year. Early last year, the Oregon Secretary of State’s office released an audit report documenting “increased risks” in the new system created by Ballot Measure 110.

Dig deeper: Listen to Mary Muncy and Addie Offereins’ report on The World and Everything in It podcast about Oregon lawmakers taking steps to end the decriminalization of drugs.

For further reading: Check out Addie Offereins’ report in Compassion about how “polysubstance abuse” is the next wave of the United States’ addiction crisis.

Also, read my report in The Sift from yesterday about Germany decriminalizing marijuana and the criticisms of that decision.

Josh Schumacher

Josh is a breaking news reporter for WORLD. He’s a graduate of World Journalism Institute and Patrick Henry College.

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