With the passage of Measure 110, Oregon has become the first state in the nation to decriminalize personal possession of what are considered hard drugs. The measure received near 59% of the vote and may pave the way in the U.S. for a new approach to how people who use drugs are treated and how controlled substance offenses are handled.
The state will no longer impose criminal penalties upon people who possess:
- 1 gram or less of heroin
- 2 grams or less of cocaine
- 2 grams or less of methamphetamine
- Less than 1 gram or 5 pills of MDMA
- Less than 40 units of LSD
- Less than 12 grams of psilocybin
- Less than 40 units of methadone
- Less than 40 pills of oxycodone
Oregon's new measure may prompt drug producers to move their operations to the state because the law on personal possession is a bit more relaxed. But it's important to note that although having certain amounts of drugs has been decriminalized, these substances are still federally illegal. Thus, personal possession may be prosecuted as a federal crime.
Will Penalties Be Assessed at All for Drug Possession?
Measure 110 decreases the charge for personal drug possession from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class E violation (a non-criminal offense similar to a traffic ticket). Currently, a person can be sent to jail for having a small amount of a controlled substance on them. However, when the penalty changes take effect on February 1, 2021, the individual will have the option of paying a $100 fine or completing a drug assessment.
The measure applies only to personal possession in small amounts. If an individual has quantities higher than those listed above, they could be charged with a misdemeanor. Additionally, the manufacture or distribution of hard drugs will still be punishable as a felony.
What Is the Justification for the Measure?
Currently, when a person is caught with drugs, they are charged with a crime. If they're found guilty, they may be incarcerated, and they will have a mark on their criminal record. When a person is in jail, they don't have access to the services needed to help overcome their addiction. And when they have a criminal record, they will have a harder time finding a job or a place to live and may be denied various other opportunities. The inability to become a contributing member of society creates a cycle of drug use and incarceration. It also leads to increased homelessness, poverty, and crime rates.
Measure 110 seeks to address the deeper issues arising from drug use by providing individuals with health services focused on recovery. Drug treatment programs are more likely to help individuals than is incarceration. The measure will allow access to such services for people who need them.
To establish drug addiction treatment centers, Oregon will use tax revenue above $11,250,000 received from marijuana sales, as well as savings from the arrest, prosecution, and incarceration of drug possession offenses.
In the long run, the measure will be more cost-effective and beneficial than criminal prosecution and punishments.
Will Pending Cases Be Affected?
Right now, Measure 110 applies to offenses that occur after it goes into effect. However, I, Attorney Justin Rosas, hope the new law will affect pending cases.
If you have been charged with drug possession in Medford, contact my firm, The Law Office of Justin Rosas, at (541) 933-5972 to discuss your case.