Tag: Measure 110

Washington State Follow’s Oregon’s Lead and Decriminalizes Personal Drug Possession

As one of the chief petitioners for the Oregon Measure 110 drug decriminalization measure, I’ve often been asked about which states would be the next to follow suit and swing a big sledgehammer at the the failed and racist Drug War and I always mentioned our great friend and neighbor to the north for a number of reasons. Washington and Oregon have both been pioneers on cannabis and other progressive reforms, such as voting by mail, death with dignity, and bottle deposits. Plus, both states have the initiative process that make “controversial” policy changes possible as too many legislators and policymakers tend to be too conservative to pass Drug War reforms until overwhelming voter support forces their hand, about a decade after a majority of the population is ready for the change. If it wasn’t for the COVID pandemic, an initiative similar to M110 would have likely been on Washington’s ballot in 2020 as well.

I expected our Great Northwest neighbors to successfully pass a decriminalization initiative in 2022 or 2024 at the latest, I certainly didn’t expect for Washington to decriminalize drug possession in 2021 because of a state supreme court decision. OPB reported on the landmark case:

Five justices, led by Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud, said the state law was unconstitutional because it criminalized her passive, unknowing conduct, in violation of her due process protections. A letter carrier who unwittingly delivers a package of drugs, someone whose roommate hides drugs in a common living area, and someone who picks up the wrong bag at an airport could all be convicted under the law, she noted.

“Attaching the harsh penalties of felony conviction, lengthy imprisonment, stigma, and the many collateral consequences that accompany every felony drug conviction to entirely innocent and passive conduct exceeds the legislature’s powers,” Gordon McCloud wrote for the majority.

For more than six decades, the court had affirmed the Legislature’s power to criminalize drug possession without proof of a defendant’s intent to possess them. In a crucial decision from 1981, the court expressly noted that if lawmakers had wanted to require proof of intent, they would have made that an element of the crime.

Theshia Naidoo, managing director for the Drug Policy Alliance’s Department of Legal Affairs issued the following statement in a press release:

This decision is a perfect dovetail to the drug decriminalization bill moving through the legislature, which has already passed out of committee.  We urge legislators to immediately consider this bill and the benefits it would bring, including expanded health, harm reduction and recovery services, rather than re-enacting the harmful criminal penalties of the past that have resulted in extreme racial disparities, record drug overdoses, and countless lives ruined.
 
Oregon has already shown us in the most recent election that decriminalization is not only politically viable, but incredibly popular — as Measure 110, which decriminalized possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use and provided increased access to services — passed by a 17 point margin. Washington should follow suit and provide people with the services they need, rather than the burden of a criminal record they are forced to carry throughout their lives.

Hopefully, Washington lawmakers see the writing on the wall and keep drug decriminalization in place. It is clear that we will not end drug addiction issues by arresting and jailing people. People need education, healthcare, employment, and housing. Let’s invest in people, not more prisons. A sincere thanks to the Washington State Supreme Court. Legislators and Governor Jay Inslee should follow their example, science, and the evidence on the ground from Portugal. If lawmakers rollback this decision and bring back racist drug penalties, I have no doubt that the great people of the Great Northwest will speak loudly and clearly that it is time to just say no to the Drug War. Step by step, state by state.

Washington, California, and Vermont Are Following Oregon’s Lead on Drug Policy

Oregon has been a pioneer on cannabis and drug policy ever since the Beaver State became the first to decriminalize the personal possession of cannabis back in 1973. One of the first states to legalize both medical and adult use cannabis, Oregon really took a sledgehammer to the failed and harmful Drug War by passing Measure 110 last November with over 58% of the vote. Measure 110 decriminalized the personal possession of drugs while setting aside millions of dollars in excess cannabis tax revenue to fund drug treatment, harm reduction, and recovery services. As we’ve seen with cannabis policy, other states are greatly influenced by advancements of previous states, and Washington, California, and Vermont have all taken steps, following Oregon’s lead.

First up was Oregon’s Great Northwest neighbor, as Marijuana Moment reported:

A landmark drug decriminalization and treatment bill in Washington State cleared its first legislative hurdle on Monday, with a panel of lawmakers voting to advance the measure just hours before a key deadline.

The House Public Safety Committee voted 7–6 to approve the Pathways to Recovery Act, HB 1499, which would remove penalties for “personal use” amounts of illegal substances and expand outreach and recovery services. The vote is the first time a panel of lawmakers in any U.S. state has voted to remove criminal penalties for possession of all drugs.

“This bill is an assertion that substance use disorder is treatable brain disease from which people recover,” lead sponsor Rep. Lauren Davis (D) said before the vote. “This bill is about reaching each and every person living with substance use disorder, before they ever touch the criminal legal system.”

Then, a great bill has been introduced by a legislator in Oregon’s southern neighbor, as the Guardian covered:

California lawmaker has introduced legislation that would decriminalize psychedelics in the state, the latest bold step in a movement to end America’s war on drugs.

Scott Wiener, the state senator who authored the bill, hopes that in following the lead of places such as Oakland, Santa Cruz and the District of Columbia – all cities which have decriminalized psychedelics – California will move one step closer to decriminalizing the use and possession of all drugs, something that Oregon passed by voter initiative in November.

“People should not be going to jail for possessing or using drugs,” Wiener told the Guardian. “It’s a health issue, not a criminal issue, and I hope that we get all the way there.”

And there’s positive news out of Vermont as well:

It’s time for Vermont to decriminalize all drugs, said several left-leaning lawmakers and Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah George on Wednesday. The push for decriminalization came during a press conference during which lawmakers unveiled a number of new bills to address the state’s overdose crisis.

By November of 2020, 134 overdose deaths had been reported that year in Vermont, compared to 99 deaths in 2019, according to the state Department of Health. Lawmakers said the pandemic has made life harder for Vermonters struggling with substance use — a population they said has been overlooked by the state’s Covid response efforts. 

“Drugs are not illegal because they are dangerous, but they are certainly more dangerous because they’re illegal,” said George, a longtime proponent of progressive drug policies. “Everything is safer when it’s legalized and regulated, and legal drugs are safer than illegal drugs.”

All of the statewide reforms, including Oregon, followed in the footsteps of local measures in Colorado and California, and everyone is following the lead of Portugal, who demonstrated that drug use should be treated as a health issue instead of a criminal one over two decades ago. Everyone can see that the Drug War has failed on virtually every level. Whether you are a compassionate progressive or a conservative that cares about wasteful spending, the War on Drugs is a disaster. It has fueled mass incarceration, the New Jim Crow, as Oregon-born Professor Michelle Alexander has written about, resulting in a “monstrous, incoherent mess” as neuroscientist Dr. Carl Hart recently opined in his new book. Drugs used to be a “third rail” in American politics, something that people, especially elected officials wouldn’t touch. It’s great to see that the times are a-changin’ as more and more people are saying “no” to the Drug War, step by step, state by state.

“Uprooting the Drug War” Launched by the Drug Policy Alliance Today

The Drug War negatively impacts all of us, even if you have never used drugs. Even if you only utilize cannabis in a legal state and think that the War on Drugs is over for you, the failed policy is still costing you as your medical, employment, and parental rights can still be dictated by a failed, outdated policy. Half of all states require that doctors report suspected drug use by parents to child welfare authorities, even if there isn’t any harm to the child. Many people are forced to forego medical cannabis by some doctors and people can lose their housing and employment opportunities, pushing people into poverty and potentially a life of crime to survive.

When entire communities are decimated, we all suffer. If you care about the overexpansion of the government’s power over our lives or wasteful spending, the Drug War aint’ for you. When the government wages a war on nonviolent citizens, the powers gained infiltrate other areas of our lives and the money set on fire trying to make America “drug free” is money that we’ll never get back. Resources that could be allocated to save lives and lift people out of poverty are instead used to build prisons and lock generations in a vicious cycle. The prison industrial complex only grows stronger with incentives to lobby for more draconian laws that are ineffective and harmful.

The Drug Policy Alliance is on the forefront of ending the Drug War. They helped form the foundation for both the Measure 91 cannabis legalization and Measure 110 drug decriminalization campaigns in Oregon. Today, they launched a new project, “Uprooting the Drug War” detailing just how pervasive the War on Drugs is in our lives:

The war on drugs has impacted nearly every aspect of our lives. Our government criminalizes people who use drugs instead of providing education and addiction health services, including treatment. Rather than invest in communities, public officials invest in surveillance, policing, and punishment tactics that disproportionately target and impact people of color, low-income people, and non-citizens. Though these tactics have fueled mass incarceration, that is not their only impact.

There are serious consequences for drug use in nearly every sector of civil life — education, employment, housing, child welfare, immigration, and public benefits. Punishment is not limited to the criminal legal system. Instead, it is the default reaction to drug use wherever it shows up, impacting our lives in profound but largely unrecognized ways. We must shine a spotlight on the insidious ways the drug war has spread into all our systems.

Uprooting the Drug War details how housing, public benefits, child welfare, immigration, education, and employment are all impacted by a failed and harmful policy with racist and classist consequences. The issues go above and beyond just mass incarceration, which would be bad enough. The New Jim Crow targets people of color and anyone without the means to adequately defend themselves. While the wealthy can often escape serious consequences, the working class and those suffering through poverty aren’t that fortunate. Check out Uprooting the Drug War and spread the word. Step by step, state by state, let’s end this failed and harmful policy.

#NoMoreDrugWar: Oregon Officially Ends Personal Drug Possession Arrests Today

The cannabis community knows all too well that the Drug War has been a terrible failure with racist and classist consequences. Communities of color have been disproportionately harmed by the War on Drugs. Here in Oregon, Black and indigenous residents have especially suffered from over policing, getting arrested and convicted at a higher rate than other races and, in turn, experiencing detrimental collateral consequences such the inability to get a job, find housing, or further their education. In addition to the racist nature of the War on Drugs is the toll placed upon the poor and the working class. The wealthy, you can look to many celebrity examples, usually don’t end up with severe criminal consequences for their drug use, while those without means are further locked into a cycle of poverty. February 1st, 2021, marks the first day that Measure 110 goes into effect, eliminating harmful drug possession arrests and moving Oregon towards a health-based approach to treating drug use and addiction.

Serving as a co-chief petitioner and working on the M110 campaign was an honor of mine and so many people have had to put in decades of work to dismantle tons of misinformation and propaganda to move us forward. We are seeing a groundswell of support for ending harmful drug policies, including from law enforcement. The AFSCME 75 labor union endorsed Measure 110, and 10% of their membership is comprised of prison guards, and I was pleased to read in OPB how a Portland police officer was keeping an open mind:

Police and criminal justice agencies across Oregon are figuring out how to deal with the new law. Portland Police Officer Melissa Newhard thinks it may save officers time, as they can now simply write a ticket instead of taking someone to jail.

“This will be a little bit quicker, like a traffic stop,” she said. “But … we’re still going to get these people’s names. There will be that record that they have been stopped with illegal drugs on them, whether or not they went to jail.”

***

Newhard said the Portland Police Bureau has no plans to reduce the number of officers on the street because of the new law. Nor does she believe Measure 110 will reduce the number of times police search people they stop or their vehicles, because law enforcement is still tasked with preventing the sale of drugs. Newhard expects it will be relatively easy to distinguish between people carrying drugs for personal use and those carrying for sale. Officers can weigh contraband if necessary.

When the great Michelle Alexander first saw a sign that stated that “The Drug War Is the New Jim Crow” she was taken aback, thinking that the claim was too extreme, too radical. Over time, she “came to see that mass incarceration in the United States had, in fact, emerged as a stunningly comprehensive and well-disguised system of racialized social control that functions in a manner strikingly similar to Jim Crow.”

Like Professor Alexander (who attended high school in Ashland, so Oregonians we can tout her as one of us), I was at first skeptical of claims made about cannabis and the ills of the Drug War. As I learned more and saw firsthand the tragic consequences of the War on Drugs, both personally and professionally, I knew that we had an obligation to end a harmful war being waged upon on our own citizens. Thank you, Oregon, for helping lead the way. There is still a lot of work to be done in Oregon and across the nation. Please support the efforts of the Oregon Health and Justice Recover Alliance as we all work to ensure that the will of the voters is fully enacted and the Drug Policy Alliance, who are leading the fight across the United States, and the globe.

Multnomah County DA Mike Schmidt Wisely Implements Oregon Decriminalization Law

Both District Attorney Mike Schmidt and the Oregon Measure 110 drug decriminalization law won overwhelmingly in Multnomah County, as residents throughout the Portland Metropolitan Area understand the need to move towards progressive “smart on crime” policies instead of regressive and ineffective “tough on crime” laws. Treating drug use and addiction as a health issue instead of a criminal matter, as Measure 110 calls for, is a foundational position of progressive criminal justice reforms, and it is great to see that Schmidt announced that his office will wisely implement Measure 110 early, even though the law doesn’t officially go into effect until February 1, 2021.

Multnomah County is joining both Clackamas and Deschutes County in saving limited law enforcement resources and taxpayer dollars, not to mention improving more lives, by promptly enacting Measure 110. From the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office:

“The passage of Ballot Measure 110 sends a clear message of strong public support that drug use should be treated as a public health matter rather than a criminal justice matter. Past punitive drug policies and laws resulted in over-policing of diverse communities, heavy reliance on correctional facilities and a failure to promote public safety and health. It’s time to move beyond these failed practices, expand access to treatment and focus our limited law enforcement resources to target high-level, commercial drug offenses,” said District Attorney Mike Schmidt.

Under Ballot Measure 110, people will no longer be arrested and jailed for the possession of small amounts of drugs. Instead, they will get the opportunity for a health assessment and be connected to treatment or recovery services, including housing assistance.

Because of the strong public support for Ballot Measure 110 and the need to conserve scarce law enforcement resources during a time of competing demands, the district attorney’s office will immediately change its practices relating to the handling of cases that contain a PCS charge.

I applaud District Attorney Mike Schmidt and every Oregon law enforcement official that is treating personal drug possession as a health issue instead of a criminal matter. The Drug War has not worked and it is time to implement a new, health-based approach. This is not a free-for-all to sell drugs as critics have nonsensically claimed and the sky will not fall, just as the sky remained above us when we legalized cannabis.

I urge everyone to support DA Schmidt and all elected officials who are following the will of the voters and turning the page on failed, harmful, and racist Drug War policies. I look forward to more Oregon prosecutors following this path and eventually more states following in Oregon’s footsteps in sweeping the War on Drugs into the dustbin of history. #NoMoreDrugWar

A summary of Multnomah County DA’s new practices can be obtained by here and a detailed explanation can be obtained by clicking here.

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.

VOTE!!! And then Come to Kind Leaf and Receive a Sticker with a Purchase!

By now, you’ve grown tired of all of the political ads across the airwaves and you’re certainly done with debates on social media. Oregonians, if you haven’t gotten your ballots in yet, be sure to get those ballots in soon to make sure that they get counted. Tuesday, October 27th, is the last day that you can safely mail in your ballot, so use a drop box after Tuesday. Personally, I urge you to vote YES on both Measure 109 and 110. Measure 109 will allow for medicinal psilocybin therapy while Measure 110 will end harmful drug possession arrests and set aside more than $100 million for more drug treatment and recovery services.

Oregon has been a pioneer on voting by mail and voting access in general, leading to high turnout rates compared to the rest of the nation and, thus far, there is record breaking turnout. Turnout is so great, that if you haven’t been bugged by a campaign volunteer yet, you soon will be. Get in your ballot and you’ll be taken off of campaign’s lists as they’ll know that your ballot has been returned.

The only bad thing about Oregon’s vote by mail system is that you don’t get an “I Voted” sticker like you do in other states. To reward yourself, and fellow voters that you care about, drop by Kind Leaf, make a purchase from the best cannabis selection in Oregon and you’ll get a limited edition sticker while supplies last! No matter how you vote, just be sure to vote and do your civic duty. To help you get through this election season, Kind Leaf will always be there for you.

Kind Leaf is a true, Oregonian small business that gives back to the local community. By supporting Kind Leaf, you are supporting Oregonians, particularly the local Pendleton area, not an out-of-state or multinational corporation. Kind Leaf always has great deals and offers discounts for seniors, veterans, OMMP patients, and for utilizing the curbside pick-up window.

Kind Leaf, Eastern Oregon’s premier craft cannabis boutique, has THE best selection in the state, if not the entire Great Northwest, if not the world. Come in and compare.

Oregonians, Vote Yes on 110 to End Harmful Drug War Arrests and Convictions

Oregon has made a lot of progress ending harmful Drug War arrests and convictions, but there is still more work to be done. Let’s take the next step by passing Measure 110, the Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act and move Oregon towards treating addiction with a health-based approach similar to the successful system that Portugal established nearly two decades ago. If you want to put an end to Drug War tragedies, such as the killing of Breonna Taylor, passing Measure 110 is a great start.

I’m honored to serve as a chief petitioner of this important measure, along with Haven Wheelock, a public health expert and advocate at Outside In, and Janie Gullickson, the executive director of the Mental Health and Addiction Association of Oregon. Measure 110 will end over 8,000 drug possession arrests and set aside over $100 million dollars for treatment and recovery programs that include job training, housing assistance, and harm reduction interventions.

As the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission notes, Measure 110 will end about 90% of all personal drug possession arrests. Currently, we are arresting nearly 9,000 people every year for misdemeanor drug possession, without funding adequate treatment programs. These arrests and convictions merely saddle people with criminal records, hurting their ability to get a job, an education, and housing. Further, as the justice commission states, Black and Indigenous Oregonians are disproportionately harmed by these drug arrests and convictions and Measure 110 will eliminate racial disparities of these harmful punishments by 95%.

Measure 110 pays for treatment, recovery, and harm reduction programs that include housing assistance, job training, and peer support by utilizing excess cannabis tax revenue. When Oregon first voted to legalize cannabis, only $40 million was expected to be brought in. Now, the state brings in over 3x that amount. Measure 110 locks in the first $45 million for the programs originally scheduled for funding and the Oregon Legislature ensured that the $9 billion dollar school budget will NOT be cut, thus money that is earmarked for law enforcement will now go to funding more treatment and recovery programs.

Measure 110 is a win-win for Oregon. If you are undecided, or know anyone that is undecided on the measure, have them read the endorsement of the Portland Mercury, or The Oregonian, and take a look at the long list of endorsers that include the Oregon Nurses Association, the Oregon Academy of Family Physicians, the Oregon School Psychologist Association, and the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP, formerly Law Enforcement Against Prohibition).

Longtime cannabis legalization supporter Congressman Earl Blumenauer is once again on the right side of history, urging Oregonians to end harmful Drug War possession arrests and treat drug use and addiction as a health issue, instead of a law enforcement one.