Most of the illicit drugs killing Oregonians are produced, manufactured and smuggled into the state by drug cartels operating out of Mexico.

On April 24, Oregon’s medical examiner reported that there were 222 deaths in 2013 related to the use of methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine or a combination of drugs. Twenty-three of the state’s 36 counties had at least one death related to illicit drugs; Clackamas County recorded 17 drug-related deaths — 13 from heroin and four from methamphetamine.

From 2006 to 2013, the medical examiner says, 1,752 drug-related deaths occurred in Oregonian.

Who is most likely dealing the drugs that are killing the state’s residents? A look at the current Oregon Department of Corrections prison population offers a clue.

As of April 1, there were 177 foreign nationals (prisoners with immigration holds) incarcerated for drug crimes in the state prison system; 159 of those prisoners declared their country of origin as Mexico. That means that almost 90 percent of the foreign nationals in prison are there because of drug crimes.

Most Oregonians are well enough informed from news reports to know that the majority of illicit drugs that originate in Mexico are injected into the state up Interstate 5, Highway 97 or down Interstate 84, hidden in the bowels of cars, SUVs and trucks.

Mexican cartels’ drug mules and dealers are operating the motor vehicles that are used to carry drugs into the state or to distribute drugs across the state. And they need some form of identification, like an Oregon Divers License or Drivers Card, to move around the state so that a minor automobile accident or traffic citation doesn’t bring their criminal activities to the attention of law enforcement authorities.

Senate Bill 833, which was signed into law during the 2013 Legislative session, would literally give the cartel members operating motor vehicles in this state a get-out-of- jail-free-card, because law enforcement authorities would not have probable cause to search their vehicles unless a serious automobile accident or traffic violation has occurred.

One common-sense solution to reduce future drug deaths in Oregon, which is now literally a drug den of death, is to make it more difficult for Mexican drug cartel operatives to access licenses. Oregon’s registered voters will have the opportunity to do just that in the November general election. If voters overturn the law on Nov. 4, they can put the brakes on Mexican drug cartels’ ability to distribute drugs in this state.

Vote no on Referendum 301, and send Senate Bill 833’s Driver Cards for those who cannot prove legal status in the U.S. to the archives of bad legislative history.

David Olen Cross lives in Salem.

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