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How is Oregon doing after decriminalizing hard drugs in 2020?

Oregon – Oregon voters approved by referendum a measure to decriminalize hard drugs in 2020, after being told it was a way to establish and fund recovery centers for addicts, to help them instead of incarcerating them.

However, one year after the measure entered into force in February 2021, only 1% of people who received citations for possession of controlled substances applied for help through a new hotline.

Being Oregon the first state in the United States to decriminalize the possession of heroin, methamphetamine, LSD, oxycodone and other drugs for personal use, its program is considered a potential model for other states.

Some question whether the approach is too lenient, and others say it has already had a positive impact by redirecting millions of dollars to facilities to help people with addiction problems. The funds come from taxes generated by Oregon’s legal marijuana industry and savings from reductions in arrests, jail time and parole supervision.

Under the new law, possession of controlled substances is now a Class E “infraction” instead of a felony or misdemeanor. It carries a maximum fine of $100 that can be waived if the person calls a hotline for a health assessment. Such a call may lead to addiction counseling and other services.

But of roughly 2,000 citations issued by police in the year since decriminalization, only 92 of the people who received them called the line. And only 19 applied for resources for services, said William Nunemann of Lines for Life, which runs the hotline.

Senator Floyd Prozanski, chairman of the Oregon Senate Judiciary and Ballot Measure Implementation Committee 110, said he is surprised more ticketed did not take advantage of recovery options. Still, he thinks it’s too early to judge how the new method is going.

Decriminalization advocates argue that it is unfair to incarcerate drug users and give them criminal records, hurting their job and housing prospects..

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