Drug decriminalization law now in effect in Multnomah County
A new statewide law decriminalizing possession of drugs for personal use is now in effect in Multnomah County — more than a month and a half ahead of schedule.
Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt announced Dec. 17 that his office will no longer issue charges for people found possessing small amounts of hard drugs, including heroin, meth or cocaine. That policy will become the law of the land statewide on Feb. 1, when Ballot Measure 110 goes into effect.
"The passage of Ballot Measure 110 sends a clear message of strong public support that drug use should be treated as a public health matter rather than a criminal justice matter," Schmidt said in a statement.
The ballot measure — which passed with support from 74% of the voters in Multnomah County and 58% statewide in November — does not legalize the manufacture of hard drugs, nor does it decriminalize possession of large amounts of drugs typically obtained for resale.
County prosecutors will continue to file felony-level commercial drug offenses when the admissible evidence supports the case beyond a reasonable doubt, according to a four-page sentencing guideline released by the DA's office. Those found carrying more hard drugs than allowed — but without evidence of intent to distribute — will face misdemeanor charges "consistent with existing COVID-19 policies," per the memo.
"Past punitive drug policies and laws resulted in over-policing of diverse communities, heavy reliance on correctional facilities and a failure to promote public safety and health," said Schmidt. "It's time to move beyond these failed practices, expand access to treatment and focus our limited law enforcement resources to target high-level, commercial drug offenses."
Under the new rules, those found with hard drugs will face a Class E violation, similar to a traffic ticket, with penalties of a $100 fine or completing a health assessment instead.
While Measure 110 calls for reallocating a hefty share of marijuana tax revenue away from schools and state police to fund addiction treatment programs, Gov. Kate Brown has proposed delaying that change until 2022, citing the need to maintain critical services during the public health crisis.
What qualifies as 'personal' use?
With the passage of Measure 110, Oregonians won't be arrested for possessing small amounts of hard drugs intended for personal use. But what exactly is the cut-off?
Here's the threshold for drug possession as written into Oregon law — anything above could be considered a serious misdemeanor, or a felony if drug-dealing can be proven:
• LSD — possession of 40 or more user units
• Psilocybin — 12 grams or more
• Methadone — 40 or more units
• Oxycodone — 40 or more pills, tablets or capsules
• Heroin — one gram or more
• MDMA — one gram or more, or five or more pills
• Cocaine — two grams or more
• Meth — two grams or more
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