Oregon House Republicans call together for Measure 110 changes

By: - November 14, 2023 5:42 pm

Critics say Measure 110 which decriminalized drugs, has only worsened the addiction crisis. (Getty Images)

Oregon House Republicans called for the state’s Democratic leaders to make several changes to Measure 110, the state’s drug decriminalization law.

In a letter Tuesday to Gov. Tina Kotek, Senate President Rob Wagner and House Speaker Dan Rayfield, all House Republicans but one called the measure an “abysmal failure” that needs to be changed to “alleviate the suffering” they say it has caused.

“Oregon is in crisis because Measure 110 has failed,” House Minority Leader Jeff Helfrich of Hood River said in a release. “House Republicans have diligently assembled proposals for legislation needed to effect meaningful change to end the addiction, crime and homelessness that plague our state. It is time for the majority party to put partisanship and special interests aside and work with Republicans to implement these desperately needed solutions so that our state can begin to heal.”

Their proposals include criminalizing possession of illegal drugs and mandating treatment, ideas that already have been made by a group backed by Nike co-founder Phil Knight that’s working to put those changes to voters next year in a ballot measure.

Wagner is on a work trip and wasn’t available for comment, his spokesman said. Rayfield did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Elisabeth Shepard of Kotek’s office said: “We have not responded at this time.”

The letter coincides with meetings of a joint legislative committee on the state’s addiction crisis. The bipartisan Joint Interim Committee On Addiction and Community Safety Response has met twice – in October and this month – and heard from state officials, providers and law enforcement. It is due to meet again in December as part of a mission to craft proposals for February’s legislative session that address the addiction crisis. Two of the House Republicans who signed Tuesday’s letter, Reps. Christine Goodwin of Canyonville and Kevin Mannix of Salem, are on that committee. So is another Republican, Senate Minority Leader, Tim Knopp of Bend.

Only one Republican House member, E. Werner Reschke of Klamath Falls, who has urged Kotek to call a special session to repeal the measure, did not sign the letter. He did not respond to a request for comment.

The Senate Majority Leader, Kate Lieber of Beaverton, who heads the joint committee, responded in an emailed statement on Wednesday that Oregonians have to work together to solve these issues. :

“I absolutely agree that we need to act urgently to keep people safe, clean up our streets, and save lives. It’s why we set up this bipartisan committee to take action on real, responsible solutions to the drug crisis as quickly as possible. If we could waive a magic wand and fix everything overnight, we absolutely would, but the last thing Oregonians need is half-baked ideas focused more on scoring political points than solving our problems,” she said.

The Republican proposals include:

  • Criminal penalties for the possession of fentanyl, methamphetamine and heroin and a ban on public drug use.
  • Mandated treatment, with forced welfare holds for those on drugs who pose a danger to themselves or others and diversion programs for those charged with drug possession and the expungement of criminal records for those who “successfully” go through treatment. 
  • Abolishment of the oversight committee that the Oregon Health Authority established to approve programs for state funds. The law provides for a share of cannabis revenue to be distributed to providers for a range of services, including treatment, harm reduction and peer programs that connect people with addiction to others in recovery. So far, about $265 million has been distributed.

The letter calls for more funding for county probation departments and state specialty courts that work with drug suspects and those with mental health conditions. And they said the state should invest in sobering centers and use bonds to invest in treatment facilities.

They said the situation is dire.

“Each day that this horrendous policy remains in place creates more opportunity for drug dealers to take advantage of vulnerable Oregonians. It’s another day that struggling addicts are unable to receive the treatment promised to them when the policy was enacted. It’s another day that Oregonians live in fear of falling victim to crime as desperate people look for ways to feed their habits. It’s another day that the homeless crisis worsens.” the letter said.

Republicans have called for changes to Measure 110 for months, though this is the first letter of its type. While Democrats have said that the law needs time to work, they’ve acknowledged that changes are needed by recriminalizing fentanyl by making possession of a small amount a misdemeanor in this year’s legislative session and forming the joint committee.

Reporter Ben Botkin contributed to this story.


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Lynne Terry
Lynne Terry

Lynne Terry has more than 30 years of journalism experience, including a recent stint as editor of The Lund Report, a highly regarded health news site. She reported on health and food safety in her 18 years at The Oregonian, was a senior producer at Oregon Public Broadcasting and Paris correspondent for National Public Radio for nine years.