Drug treatment initiative qualifies for Oregon's November ballot
An initiative that would expand drug treatment and decriminalize low level drug possession qualified for Oregon's November ballot on Tuesday, according to the Oregon Secretary of State website.
The More Treatment campaign submitted more than 160,000 signatures supporting the initiative by June 19, of which 116,622 were verified by the Oregon Secretary of State. It needed 112,020 to qualify.
Around one in 10 people in Oregon suffer from a substance abuse disorder, according to a 2017 report from the Oregon Substance Use Disorder Research Committee. Police made 8,903 drug possession arrests in 2018, disproportionately affecting people of color, according to data from the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission.
"This measure is vital and will save so many lives and just put the old way of doing things on its head," said Janie Gullickson, executive director of Mental Health & Addiction Association of Oregon and one of the initiative's chief petitioners.
The Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act, if passed, would reduce the penalty for some drug possession charges and establish grants to fund treatments like addiction recovery centers where people can get assessed. The grants would be used flexibly to address the needs of different communities, but the initiative requires organizations that receive the grant to report statistics for audits.
Possession of small quantities of drugs like methamphetamine, heroin or cocaine would result in a Class E violation, with a maximum fine of $100 that can be waived if one completes a health assessment at one of the centers.
Gullickson said that this will help prevent criminal records that can impede access to housing and employment. "The criminal justice pathway is still there," she said. "But this will keep so many folks just out of that system."
The grants would be funded by allocating the tax money collected on legal marijuana over $45 million, which was what the state originally expected to collect through the taxes when Measure 91 passed.
Based on the past tax revenue and future projections, campaign manager Peter Zuckerman said, the initiative would allocate at least $65 million yearly to drug treatment grants but could raise up to $100 million yearly.
The initiative has been endorsed by 60 organizations, including the Urban League of Portland, ACLU and Human Rights Watch.
The initiative is the first to qualify for the November ballot, according to the Secretary of State website.
An initiative to legalize psilocybin, or "magic," mushrooms for medicinal use has until July 2 to submit an additional 5,000 valid signatures, as only 106,908 signatures the campaign submitted could be verified by the Secretary of State's office.
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