Oregon’s drug people are spiraling out of control as overdoses increase and as many as 1 in 5 adults have an addiction to hard drugs. Experts say Oregon’s decriminalization measures are contributing to the problem.
According to Fox, the streets of Portland resemble a drug market, and cops are so overwhelmed by the extent of public drug use and dealing that they are forced to turn a blind eye.
Hard drugs like heroin, methamphetamine, crack cocaine and synthetic opioids like Fentanyl are rampant on Oregon’s streets. 1 in 5 adults in the state are addicted to substances and experts say the crisis is only increasing since the state passed its liberal amendments to drug possession laws.
58 percent of voters opted to support the 2020 Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act which decriminalized possession of a small amount of hard drugs with a view to keeping drug addicts out of jail and directing them to treatment centers instead.
Under the new law, possession of heroin, meth, cocaine, or fentanyl carries a meager Class E violation, similar to a minor traffic offense warranting a $100 ticket.
But all data suggests the soft touch to hard drugs is causing more harm than good. In 2021, drug overdoses skyrocketed and hit an all-time high for the state. 1069 people lost their lives to addiction that year, an increase of 41 percent since the law change in 2020.
The alleys of Portland, Oregon, are strewn with piles of garbage and used drug needles, reflecting a growing problem of homelessness, drug addiction, and mental illness.
— Portland is Dying (@PDXisDying) February 3, 2020
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The Lund Report claims that in a year just 136 people entered rehabilitation systems and just 1 percent of those went on to remain drug-free.
By the end of May, the Oregon Judicial Department said it had issued 2,576 tickets for drug offenses, 75 percent of which resulted in convictions predominantly because the offender failed to attend court.
“It [the Act] was never designed to reduce our addiction rates, so it was never designed to deal with our addiction crisis,” said Mike Marshall, co-founder of Oregon Recovers.
“It was always meant to deal with the war on drugs.”
With serious addictions rising in communities, so has other crime as desperate addicts turn to stealing, mugging, and burglary to fund their habit. Violent crime has also reportedly seen a surge across the state:
“What we’re absolutely seeing is that as drug possession has been decriminalized, property crimes have increased and so has violent crime,” explained District Attorney for Washington County, Kevin Barnett.
Gang violence and turf wars have sky-rocketed and the state’s largest city, Portland set an all-time high of 90 murders last year. PPB statistics show there were 102 shooting incidents in May in Portland compared to just 42 that month in 2020.
But liberal supporters of the Act, like Tera Hurst, the executive director of Health Justice Recovery Alliance seem to be in complete denial that the decriminalization of hard drugs has resulted in more rampant drug use, dealing, and violent crime.
According to its website, the Alliance insists a hardcore stance against drug possession is “racist” and, despite the wealth of stats suggesting otherwise, that decriminalization has led to fewer deaths:
“We are a statewide advocacy organization fully focussed on implementing Measure 110, with the needs of communities most harmed by the racist war on drugs front and center”, reads its website.
“We know that decriminalizing substance use leads to more suffering and death, not less”, it continues.
Hurst echoed these sentiments and insisted the scheme is still in its early days:
“I don’t think it’s just about getting folks into treatment,” she said.
“It’s also about meeting people and getting people out into the streets doing outreach for folks and getting them life-saving drugs. You can’t save somebody if they overdose and die.
While murder rates continue to climb year on year since the Act was implemented, spokesman Timothy Heider from the Oregon Health Authority, which oversees the legislation, said: “people will enter treatment when they are ready do”.