The Clergy for New Drug Policy Weekly News Round-up
“Let justice roll down like waters.”
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
In 2020, voters in Oregon overwhelmingly supported ballot measure 110. This groundbreaking measure made Oregon the first state to decriminalize possession of small amounts of drugs and expand addiction services through cannabis tax revenue. In addition, the state is establishing regulated access to psychedelic-assisted therapy and retreats.
Kassandra Frederique, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance called the passing of Measure 110, “the biggest blow to the war on drugs to date.”
While the measure reduced the violence of the war on drugs, it would be a mistake to call it true peace. As Nelson Mandela reminded us:
Peace is not just the absence of conflict; peace is the creation of an environment where all can flourish, regardless of race, color, creed, religion, gender, class, caste, or any other social markers of difference.
Ending the “war on drugs” isn’t just about stopping the violence and trauma of arrests and incarceration, it’s about ensuring access to harm reduction, recovery services, health care, housing, and quality jobs.
One of the major criticisms of Measure 110 has been that few people who have accessed services have entered into treatment. This is true but ignores that there are still huge gaps in treatment access and capacity throughout the state. And, additional funding for these services was held up until September 2022.
We don’t have any reason to believe that Measure 110 has increased drug use. Overdoses in Oregon were on a rapid rise before the changes in the law due to illicit fentanyl contaminating the drug supply. And, we have no reason to believe that crime trends are any different than in other comparable cities.
While critics have already proclaimed that Measure 110 is a “failed experiment,” the reality is that it has yet to be tried.
War can provide a false sense of moral clarity. You know who the “enemy” is and you “win” by defeating them. The work of peace is much more difficult and slow going. It requires breaking down barriers and building opportunity.
Arresting and caging a person today may make some voters feel better in the moment but it fails to take into account the generational trauma, devastated communities, and stifling of opportunity for years to come.
In Oregon, the fighting has slowed. But, that doesn’t mean that true peace has been achieved. A lot more investment is needed in high-quality harm reduction and attractive treatment services to create an environment where everyone can flourish.
We’ve provided a breakdown of more of what you need to know about Measure 110 below.
Keep the Faith,
Timothy McMahan King
While two gubernatorial candidates actively campaign for repealing Measure 110, the public still believes in the project.
A recent Data for Progress study of 1,051 Oregon voters found that Measure 110 retains strong majority support. Specifically, a majority of Oregon voters believe drug use and addiction is a public health issue and that Measure 110 should remain in place.
Additionally, voters overwhelmingly support individual provisions of the law and understand that Measure 110 is not contributing to crime and homelessness in Oregon.
Although politicians are falsely pushing the idea that Measure 110 is causing an increase in crime and overdoses, this claim is directly contradicted by another recent study. The study states:
- The public’s use of the 911 system did not change significantly after Measure 110 was enacted in Portland;
- Portland 911 calls for service data track very closely with data from comparison cities in nearby states for property, disorderly, and vice offenses, with similar seasonal fluctuations; and
- The CFS (calls for service) data do not support the negative perceptions of Measure 110 that were expressed by the criminal legal system representatives we interviewed in Oregon
Additionally, drug possession arrests significantly decreased after Measure 110 took effect on February 1, 2021, according to data from the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission. Once Measure 110 took effect, the monthly average fell by 65%, and it held steady for the first half of 2022.
There is still a lot more work to be done on ensuring the presence of opportunities where all can flourish. A study published in September found a nearly 50% gap in services for substance use disorder treatment, prevention, recovery, and harm reduction in Oregon.
The study’s lead author, Katie Lenahan, a research project manager at the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health stated “We definitely see gaps in harm reduction access. Syringe exchange programs, we have less than half of the number that is necessary to really meet the need. Naloxone distribution, we see a 28% gap, so the need for much more access to naloxone And then fentanyl test strips so people can test and make sure their drugs are safe, we saw about a 35% gap in facilities that offer that resource.”
Without funding, groups doing harm reduction and recovery work can only be partially successful.