Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt announced on Thursday that he isn’t waiting until next year to implement Measure 110, a policy that will decriminalize possession of all drugs in personal use amounts.
Oregonians passed the measure in November, but it isn’t slated to take effect statewide until Feb. 1.
Schmidt’s office said it will immediately start treating drug possession cases exempt from prosecution under Measure 110 as a public health matter, rather than a criminal one.
“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,” Schmidt said in a statement. “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.”
The district attorney cited overwhelming support for Measure 110 — more than 74% of Multnomah County voters approved the measure — as reason for his early adoption.
Under the policy change, Multnomah County prosecutors will refer new criminal drug possession cases back to officers so they can issue a ticket to the person charged.
Schmidt said pending felony cases will be downgraded, and in cases in which a person has already been sentenced, a defense attorney could file a motion to downgrade that conviction from a Class C felony to a Class A misdemeanor.
Multnomah County prosecutors will follow the guidelines set forth in Measure 110 when deciding whether a person has a non-criminal amount of drugs. A non-criminal amount under Measure 110 is defined as:
- Less than 40 units of LSD
- Less than 12 grams of psilocybin
- Less than 40 units of methadone
- Less than 40 pills of oxycodone
- Less than 1 gram of heroin
- Less than one gram or five pills of MDMA
- Less than 2 grams of cocaine
- Less than 2 grams of methamphetamine
People possessing those amounts of drugs could face up to a $100 fine as a violation. The manufacture, sale or possession of large amounts of drugs remains illegal under Measure 110.
Schmidt was elected as a progressive district attorney by an overwhelming majority of Portlanders in May and took office this summer when outgoing District Attorney Rod Underhill retired almost six months early to allow a faster transition.
Schmidt faced criticism in conservative circles earlier this year for a similarly sweeping policy change: In August, he announced at the height of nightly racial justice protests in the city that he wouldn’t be pursuing criminal charges against protesters unless police demonstrated clear evidence they were committing violent crimes, rather than simply resisting arrest.