OPINION M110: Don't take away addicts' incentive for treatment
For 18 years in the Oregon Legislature, including nearly a decade as Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, I've used my 31-year law enforcement experience to balance Oregon's criminal justice laws in a way that keeps communities safe, but also works toward rehabilitating people who commit crimes.
As you receive your ballots, I'm asking you to vote "no" on Measure 110. Let the Oregon Legislature keep working toward decriminalization and treatment funding for those suffering from addiction.
In no area of criminal law has the legislature been more productive than Oregon's efforts to stop treating drug addicts like criminals by instead recognizing addiction for what it is: a disease which needs intervention.
If you had cancer, you'd make an appointment to see a doctor. But addiction traps people's cognitive ability to make rational, informed decisions about their health. It also leads to secondary crimes like identity theft, property crimes and — sometimes — violent crimes, if left unchecked.
In 2017, with collaboration and bipartisanship, lawmakers removed personal drug possession from felony sentencing guidelines, but kept a door open for addicts to get court-sponsored treatment. We've made great progress.
Measure 110 backers would have you believe Oregon is locking people up for drug possession (we aren't) and simply giving a referral to treatment means addicts go by themselves (they don't).
In fact, Measure 110 goes so far as to disconnect the justice system from avenues to real treatment. The fines associated with personal possession of hard and dangerous drugs like meth, heroin, cocaine and ecstasy will be less than the fine you get for throwing a pop can out your car window.
When we think about the types of crimes people commit as they seek drugs, they are the crimes that do land people in prison: identity theft, certain property crimes and violent crimes. Suspects in some of the arson cases we saw last month that cost thousands of Oregonians their homes and killed people and animals were allegedly committed by people who were also found to be in personal possession of meth. Do Oregonians genuinely want to legalize this kind drug use? Because a $100 fine that simply goes to a state collection agency if a drug user doesn't pay is, in effect, full legalization of hard drugs in Oregon.
Moreover, Measure 110 applies these same poorly-planned policies to our youth. Imagine being the parent of a 15-year old and your child is cited for heroin possession. Not only under Measure 110 will you have no way of knowing about your child's drug use, but by severing the path to court-ordered treatment, we risk the likelihood of youth overdoses at a time when these tragedies are on the rise.
In my police career, it was heartbreaking to see the same faces (and new ones) over and over who couldn't get themselves into treatment alone. You never get over responding to a call where someone, particularly a young person, has tragically died due to an overdose.
My work in the Legislature was informed by those experiences, and by local experts in law enforcement, judges and medical professionals, not political consultants and special interest groups with radical ideas for Oregon's justice system.
There's still work to do; let the Legislature determine how to fund needed rehabilitation. Measure 110 isn't the solution. Please vote "no" on Measure 110. Let's work towards real reforms, not out-of-state agendas.
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