Marion County joins growing list calling for Measure 110 repeal

By Ryan Haas (OPB)
Oct. 12, 2023 11:06 p.m.
Marion County Courthouse in Salem, Ore., May 19, 2021.

Marion County Courthouse in Salem, Ore., May 19, 2021.

Kristyna Wentz-Graff / OPB

In the latest sign that Oregon’s drug decriminalization effort is facing growing pushback, Marion County leaders voted unanimously Wednesday to support the repeal of Measure 110.

THANKS TO OUR SPONSOR:

The measure — passed in 2020 with support from 58% of voters statewide — decriminalized possession of small amounts of illegal drugs. It also diverted millions of dollars into treatment programs, many of which have been slow to spin up as fentanyl swept the country and led to skyrocketing overdoses in Oregon and many other states.

While there is ongoing debate over whether Measure 110 has made the opioid crisis worse in Oregon than in other states, one clear effect of the decriminalization effort is that it took power away from law enforcement to force people into jails and drug treatment.

“This particular measure is a disaster,” Marion County District Attorney Paige Clarkson told the board of commissioners at a meeting in Salem. “It is destroying our communities and it is destroying public safety.”

THANKS TO OUR SPONSOR:

Two addiction outreach workers and two business owners echoed Clarkson’s sentiments during the meeting, with restaurant owner Julie Hoy, who is also a Salem city councilor, saying since the passage of Measure 110 she has seen “the decline of humanity roll like an avalanche across the land.”

The county commissioners did not hear or solicit testimony from any supporters of drug decriminalization.

Marion County voters passed Measure 110 with around 54% of voters supporting it, according to Commissioner Danielle Bethell.

“I strongly believe they didn’t know what they were voting for,” she said before voting in favor of the resolution.

Marion County’s status as home to the state capital adds symbolic weight to those opposing Measure 110. Eleven other counties in Oregon have voted to support similar statements advocating to recriminalize drug possession, according to the Marion County board. Clackamas County, the state’s third most populous, went as far as to send a symbolic question to voters in 2024 asking if they want to repeal Measure 110.

Political jockeying around drug decriminalization has increased as drug overdose deaths have risen in the past two years. A group of wealthy businessmen in Oregon have said they’ll fund a repeal effort if state lawmakers do not take action to change the decriminalization law.

While state lawmakers seem poised to take up changes to the state’s drug laws in the February legislative session, Bethell encouraged voters to monitor the workgroup lawmakers put together in its “creative wisdom.”

THANKS TO OUR SPONSOR:
THANKS TO OUR SPONSOR:

Related Stories

Study says drug decriminalization in Oregon did not cause more overdose deaths

Three years after Oregon voters elected to decriminalize drugs, a new study has concluded that the first-in-the-nation law has not led to increased drug use or drug overdoses. The conclusion counters an increasingly common narrative that Oregon’s drug problem is unique in the country — and that decriminalization is to blame.