Oregon Officials Admit Drug Decriminalization Has Been a Massive Failure: ‘We Have Overdoses Increasing at Drastic Rates’

A 2020 ballot measure that decriminalized drug use has failed in its purpose of improving lives, Oregon state officials were told this week.

Oregon’s House Committee on Behavior Health was told in testimony that the law has not done what it claimed it would do, according to the Washington Examiner.

“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,” Secretary of State Shemia Fagan said.

“And in the years since, we haven’t seen that play out. Instead … we’ve seen the problem with drug addiction get worse.”

Republican state Rep. Lily Morgan of Grants Pass said the death toll is rising, not falling, according to The Associated Press.

“Director, you’ve mentioned a couple of times that you’re waiting to see, and yet we have overdoses increasing at drastic rates, in my community a 700% increase in overdoses and a 120% increase in deaths,” Morgan said to state Behavioral Health Director Steve Allen, who leads the program.

“How long do we wait before we have an impact that we’re saving lives?”

Allen said the state bureaucracy overseeing the program needs to be bigger.

“Clearly, if we were to do it over again, I would have asked for many more staff much quicker in the process,” he said, noting a delay in getting money to agencies that applied for funding.

“We were just under-resourced to be able to support this effort, underestimated the work that was involved in supporting something that looked like this, and partly we didn’t fully understand it until we were in the middle of it.”

So far, about 13 percent of the $300 million budgeted for the program has been spent, according to the Examiner.

The proposal went into effect in February 2021. Under the law, anyone caught with small amounts of heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine or other drugs would receive a $100 citation — similar to a traffic ticket — and could get out of paying that fine if they called a designated hotline to get treatment.

Only 91 of 1,885 people who were ticketed ever called.

Oregon has the worst drug addiction rate in the country, according to the Oregon Capital Chronicle.

The outlet reported that according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 9 percent of teens and adults said they were addicts in 2020.


Ian Green, an audit manager, said the ballot proposition was unclear about the roles of the state agencies involved.

That “contributed to delays, confusions and strained relations,” Green said, according to the AP.

He also said the state’s health authority did not always support Oregon’s oversight council.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.