Oregon Republicans and Democrats are working on dueling plans to re-criminalize possession of small amounts of illicit drugs, making a change to voter-approved Measure 110. The key difference in the proposals is how harsh the punishment would be for minor possession.
The House Republican bill, announced Thursday, would classify possession of drugs like fentanyl, heroin, and methamphetamine as a Class A Misdemeanor. It would mandate treatment to avoid jail time, ban public use and require valuation and treatment as part of probation for certain drug and property crimes, according to a release by House Republicans.
The penalty for most of these would be up to 364 days in jail, a $6,250 fine or both. Penalties could stiffen with future convictions.
For those who possess, purchasing, make, deliver or sell a pill press, the maximum penalty would be five years in prison and a $125,000 fine.
Those convicted of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance that results in someone’s death could face 20 years in prison and a $375,000 fine.
“The citizens of Oregon understand the failures of Measure 110. We see the results on the streets, in the unacceptable overdose death rate, and in the catastrophic consequences to our communities, to public safety, and to livability,” bill sponsor Rep. Rick Lewis, R-Silverton, said in a statement. “Change is needed, and we can’t afford to take small steps that fail to adequately address the problem. We filed the bill today. A great deal of thought has gone into it, and we have the opportunity to do the right thing for Oregon, for public safety, and for the drug addicted. The bill creates accountability, but it also provides the tools and the resources needed to get us on the road to recovery.”
Text of the Republican bill can be found here.
Meanwhile, two Democrats are reportedly working on a plan that would turn possession of small drug amounts into a Class C misdemeanor. Class C is the lowest classification of a serious crime in Oregon with a maximum punishment of 30 days in jail and a $1,250 fine.
OPB reports Rep. Jason Kropf of Bend and Sen. Kate Lieber of Portland are working on the idea after meeting with stakeholder groups on what steps to take on Measure 110. The proposal reportedly gives a person who is caught for minor drug possession the option to be brought to a service provider instead of jail.
“We’re still working to put together a proposal that connects people with substance use disorder to treatment, gets drugs off our streets and keeps our communities safe.” Kropf told Central Oregon Daily News in an email, but without confirming details. “It is still our intention that a policy package will be announced before the short session, but our concepts have not been finalized yet. Of course, as is the case for all legislation, there will be committee hearings during session to further vet these proposals.”