Racial profiling bill would lower penalty for some drug offenses

Salem, Ore. – A bill to combat profiling by police includes language that would see some drug charges lowered from felonies to misdemeanors.

House Bill 2355 has already passed through the Oregon House and Senate.

It directs the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission to develop a method to record information about officers’ interactions with the public in order to combat racial profiling.

The bill also decriminalizes possession of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, oxycodone, and methadone as long as the offender doesn’t have any prior felonies or more than two felony drug convictions.

If Governor Kate Brown signs HB 2355, some of those caught in possession of Schedule I and Schedule II drugs will no longer be charged with a felony. They will instead be charged with a misdemeanor.

However, an individual can still be charged with a felony if they’re caught in possession a “commercial” amount of controlled substance, which could indicate drug dealing.

According to the Statesman Journal, House Speaker Tina Kotek said, “Felony sentences for small, user quantity amounts often carry heavy consequences including barriers to housing and employment which have a disparate impact on minority communities.”

The Journal also quotes Senator Betsy Johnson as saying, “All of us bemoan the avalanche of drugs sweeping through our communities. We lament the deaths of young people using opiates. Yet with this unbelievable disingenuous bill, we’re making it worse. Cleverly embedded in a bill that prohibits the odious practice of racial profiling, we are simultaneously accelerating the scourge of drugs decimating our communities and killing our kids.”

The bill is expected to be signed into law by Governor Kate Brown.

You can read the entire text of the bill HERE.

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