It’s Time – Drug Decriminalization in Oregon, One Year Later: Thousands of Lives Not Ruined by Possession Arrests, $300 Million+ in Funding for Services

As Infrastructure is Built Out, More Community Organizations Secure Funding & Awareness of Services Grows, Oregonians Start Receiving the Support they Need

Portland, OR – November 3, 2021 – Today is the one-year anniversary of the passage of Measure 110—the groundbreaking ballot initiative that allowed Oregon to become the first state in the nation to decriminalize possession of all drugs and greatly increase access to supportive health services. The campaign was spearheaded by Drug Policy Action, the c4 political arm of the Drug Policy Alliance, and passed overwhelmingly by Oregon voters with a 17-point margin. 
 
“A year ago, Oregonians voted yes on Measure 110 to remove criminal penalties for possession of drugs and expand access to health services. Now, because of this measure, there are thousands of people in Oregon that will never have to experience the devastating life-long barriers of having a drug arrest on their record, which disproportionately and unjustly affected Black and Indigenous people due to targeted policing.  Because of this measure, there is more than $300 million in funding that did not exist before being funneled into community organizations to provide adequate and culturally competent care that people desperately need,” said Kassandra Frederique, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “And while the devastation of 50 years of cruel and counterproductive policies can’t be erased overnight, by all metrics we hoped to achieve, and what voters asked for, we are going down the right path.” 
 
Over the last year, DPA’s key implementation partner in the state—the Health Justice Recovery Alliance— worked to secure $302 million in funding for services over the next two years, including $30 million lawmakers agreed to release ahead of schedule in May of this year.
 
“Addiction has touched us all somehow, some more personally and heartbreakingly than others. Too many of us have lost loved ones to addiction, or struggled with it ourselves. COVID-19 has made things much worse, decreasing access to care during a time when Oregonians need these services more than ever before. That’s why today, exactly one year after the Measure’s passage, we celebrate the great strides made when it comes to addressing Oregon’s addiction crisis, while recognizing that there’s still much work to be done. Our immediate focus is to ensure every Oregonian knows these critical harm reduction and recovery services are being invested in and expanded so that they will be available to anyone who wants and needs them, and that they can feel comfortable and safe accessing them,” said Tera Hurst, Executive Director of the Health Justice Recovery Alliance.
 
So far, 70 organizations in 26 out of Oregon’s 36 counties have already received funding:

  • 33 harm reduction and addiction recovery service providers expanded access to treatment services for indigent, uninsured individuals. 
  • 52 organizations hired peer support specialists — a role that addiction medicine experts have long heralded as essential to one’s recovery journey.
  • 32 service providers added recovery, supportive and transitional housing services.
  • 30 organizations increased harm reduction services, which include life-saving interventions like overdose prevention; access to naloxone, methadone and buprenorphine; as well as drug education and outreach.

*The Oversight & Accountability committee is now preparing for the second round of grant proposal requests to fund more services across the state.
 
“We were about to have to close our doors in Wasco County, which would have been devastating to the people that depend on us for support there, but thanks to Measure 110 passing, we were not only able to get the funding we needed to stay open, but also to expand the services and spectrum of care we were able to provide our clients,” said Monta Knudson, Executive Director of Bridges to Change, a non-profit that offers peer recovery support, housing and treatment services in the state.
 
By removing criminal penalties for drug possession, there are *thousands of Oregonians (based on prior arrest data) this year that have or will avoid the devastating life-long consequences of a drug arrest, that can include the loss of employment, educational opportunities, housing, public benefits, child custody and immigration status. And because communities of color in Oregon, like the rest of the country, are the ones that have disproportionately borne the brunt of the drug war, the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission estimated that Measure 110’s passage would result in a 95% reduction in racial disparities in drug arrests.  
 
Since Measure 110’s passage, a number of states—including Washington, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, New York, Rhode Island, Maryland and Kansas—the District of Columbia, and even the United States Congress have introduced bills or launched campaigns to likewise remove criminal penalties for drug possession and increase access to health services. DPA is leading the efforts in D.C. and Congress, while supporting other efforts around the country.
 
Support for drug decriminalization is at an all-time high, with a recent poll by DPA and the ACLU finding that 66% of Americans now support eliminating criminal penalties for drug possession and replacing them with a new approach centered in public health. 

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