Measure 110, the voter-approved ballot measure to decriminalize small amounts of hard drugs in Oregon, has been a hot topic ever since it was implemented. A panel discussion in Redmond Monday night looked at what some people would like to see changed about the measure.
While some say Measure 110 is not working as it is written, others say it is helping.
“We want people to be clean and healthy and live productive lives. And right now, we’ve set up a system that sets people up for failure. And for me, that’s the opposite of compassion,” said Oregon State Representative Emerson Levy, a Democrat representing Bend, Redmond and much of Deschutes County.
The Redmond Patriots, a local group that provides community education on issues of interest, held the public panel discussion at Highland Baptist Church.
The panel participants included Levy, former Bend Mayor Jeff Eager, Deschutes County District Attorney Steve Gunnels and the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office.
“In 2019, our office filed 633 methamphetamine possession cases. And this year we filed 62, about 10%,” said Gunnels.
While the panelists believed Measure 110 needs changes, treatment centers like Ideal Options in Oregon say they’ve seen huge benefits from Measure 110 funding.
“It has succeeded,” said Josh Lair with Ideal Options Drug Treatment. “We have been able to hire more peer mentors. We have been able to expand access to services, we have been able to bring new services to communities that have never been there before and will never be there again if this money goes away.”
He is also concerned about what might happen if those funds are taken away.
“If we eliminate the funding that allows the access for the change the people are looking for, if we eliminate that, Oregon will continue to be the 50th in the nation for drug treatment services,” Lair said.
Levy says her Republican colleagues put together two new Measure 110 drafts. One would be prioritizing recovery while at the same time the re-criminalition of hard drugs.
“There’s another path which is pretty similar,” Levy said. “The only part that’s different is if you are arrested for open-air drug use or using drugs, that if you go into recovery. That at that moment, that arrest never happened, and that’s never on your record.”
The discussion ended with participants asking the panel specific questions about changes to Measure 110 that may or may not come.
Rep. E. Werner Reschke, a Republican representing southern Deschutes County and part of Klamath County, called on Gov. Tina Kotek Monday to call a special session of the Legislature specifically to repeal Measure 110.
“With due respect to my legislative colleagues, we cannot wait until February for a new committee to deliberate and decide,” Reschke said in a statement. “Oregonians want to see immediate action, that’s why a special session, now, is imperative. Every day that goes by, more of our neighbors succumb to addiction, and recovery takes time, is expensive and difficult. Now, not in several months, is the time to repeal Measure 110.”
Reschke cited last week’s incident in Portland in which eight people overdosed on fentanyl as the reason immediate action needs to be taken. He also cites recent polling showing a majority of Oregonians want a partial or full repeal.