Clackamas County, Oregon, Prosecutors Decriminalize Drugs Today

Following the passage of Oregon Measure 91 in 2014, several county prosecutors effectively legalized cannabis months before the landmark legalization law went into effect. Now, we are starting to see the same treatment of all drugs following the passage of Measure 110 with over 58% of the vote on November 3rd. The Clackamas County District Attorney’s Office sent out an email to all police chiefs in their jurisdiction that their office will stop prosecuting minor drug possession cases effective today, on November 23rd, a few months before the law officially goes into effect on February 1, 2021.

The email from Clackamas County Chief Deputy District Attorney Chris Owen to law enforcement heads within the county:

Dear Chiefs:

As you are aware, Oregon voters passed Measure 110, which decriminalizes, among other things, possession of up to 1 gram of heroin, 2 grams of methamphetamine and cocaine, 12 grams of psilocybin, 40 user units of LSD 40 pills/capsules containing synthetic opiates.

The measure takes effect on February 1, 2021. At that time, persons found to be in possession of these controlled substances will be referred to local municipal or justice courts and subject to the newly created Class E infraction, which carries a maximum $100 fine. This fee will be waived if the offender provides proof of participation in a substance abuse assessment. There is no requirement that the person engage in treatment.

As the voting public has overwhelmingly passed this measure, effective 11/23/20 the Clackamas County District Attorney’s Office will stop charging new Unlawful Possession of Controlled Substance cases that will otherwise be decriminalized on February 1. It is our belief that having officers investigate and submit cases for a prosecution in the weeks leading up to February 1, which will not lead to any sanction or court supervised treatment, is not the most effective use of criminal justice resources.

While we fundamentally disagree with this measure, ceasing to prosecute these matters prior to February 1 is consistent with the will of the voters, which we must respect.

Investigations where a juvenile is found to possess controlled substances in amounts that will be decriminalized should still be referred to the Juvenile Department so the juvenile can have the opportunity for supervised treatment. There is a juvenile workgroup convening who will eventually offer guidance about what to do with juvenile referrals after February 1.

Until February 1, misdemeanor PCS is still unlawful. The decision of our office is not intended not divest local law enforcement officers the ability to conduct lawful investigations, searches and arrests. 

Good communication about this significant change is paramount. If you have any questions or need clarification about this decision, I encourage you or anyone in your agencies to contact me directly. We look forward to our presentation on December 15th where we will discuss additional specifics of M110 and its search and seizure implications.

Chris Owen

Chief Deputy District Attorney

Clackamas County DA’s Office

The Oregon cannabis community can be proud of leading the fight against the failed and harmful Drug War. As the first state to decriminalize cannabis back in 1973 and among the early states of legalizing medical and adult use cannabis (in 1998 and 2014, respectively), Oregonians are true pioneers, putting a sledgehammer to the War on Drugs, by decriminalizing drugs in 2020.

Measure 110 was made possible by cannabis law reforms passing first and that more than $100 million dollars have become available to fund drug treatment and recovery services from larger-than-expected cannabis tax revenue. When you support local dispensaries like Pendleton’s Kind Leaf, you are helping fund a variety of social programs, including more drug treatment beds, hiring more recovery mentors, housing programs, and job training services.

It’s great to see Clackamas County prosecutors ending unnecessary prosecutions early. Hopefully, other county district attorneys will follow suit. Step by step, we are saying “No More Drug War” and it’s so great to see Oregon leading the way.

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