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Use of heroin, cocaine, meth, other illegal drugs leaves wake of destruction and addiction

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Wade WhitingMeasure 110 or the "Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act" is a wolf in sheep's clothing. Measure 110 promises "to expand access to drug treatment and recovery services and pay for it with marijuana tax revenue."

What is hiding behind this clever ballot title is that Measure 110 also decriminalizes possession of dangerous and addictive drugs like heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine.

You read that right. If Measure 110 is passed by the voters this November, felony and misdemeanor drug crimes will now be treated like speeding tickets with a maximum fine of $100. As your district attorney, I strongly oppose any effort made to legitimize the use of these lethal drugs. To decriminalize is to legitimize.

In prosecuting drug offenses, my office supports court diversion programs where defendants receive treatment and have their charges reduced or dismissed. Our 18-month programs involve direct supervision with a judge, prosecutor, probation officer, defense attorney and treatment counselor monitoring compliance with treatment and verifying sobriety through urinalysis. Our diversion programs are evidence-based and effective.

Measure 110, on the other hand, simply imposes a fine for possessing heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine or other illegal drugs. This fine can be waived if the individual provides proof of a "health assessment." Measure 110 does not require ANY treatment, just an initial health assessment to get the citation dismissed. There is no enforcement mechanism for treatment nor any deterrent effect for someone who does not care about accumulating fines. Under Measure 110, a person could conceivably sit outside the courthouse and shoot heroin, snort cocaine and smoke methamphetamine without fear of ever being arrested for drug possession.

For those inclined to believe the promise of increased treatment opportunities may be worth the gamble of decriminalizing lethal drugs, please consider the following three points:

1) Crook County is not a marijuana revenue generating county. Crook County does not license marijuana dispensaries and does not contribute marijuana tax dollars to the state. Under Measure 110, only counties that contribute to the marijuana tax system are eligible for full funding. Measure 110 would essentially legalize addictive drugs in Crook County without funding to combat the problem.

2) Measure 110 only creates 16 centers around the state to provide screenings and referrals, not high-quality, evidence-based addiction treatment. Oregon doesn't have a shortage of health assessment and referral centers. Oregon does have a shortage of residential treatment beds. Referrals are not treatment. Screenings are not access. Without full funding from the state as referenced above, Crook County is unlikely to secure one of the 16 centers to serve our residents.

3) The funding promised by Measure 110 is not "free" money that is unallocated and sitting in state coffers waiting to be spent. Marijuana tax revenue is currently being used to fund schools, police, mental health programs and existing addiction treatment and prevention programs. Measure 110 will divert dollars from these essential services.

Measure 110 is a deeply flawed ballot measure that guarantees Crook County will be less safe upon passage. I fully support increased treatment resources and greater access for services but not at the cost of decriminalizing the very drugs that make the treatment centers necessary in the first place. The proponents of Measure 110 know they do not need to decriminalize drugs in order to ask residents to support more treatment. They seem more concerned about promoting their ideology than attempting to craft a well thought out state-wide treatment plan. That is a shame.

Illegal drugs are dangerous and destroy lives. Use of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and other illegal drugs leave a wake of destruction and addiction that can and often lead to further criminal activity. As your district attorney, I will steadfastly oppose any effort made to legitimize drugs in our community.

Please join me in voting "no" on Measure 110.

Wade Whiting is the Crook County District Attorney. He can be reached at 541-447-4158.

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