MEDFORD, Ore. – A coalition of Oregonians trying to make changes to Measure 110, officially filed for a ballot measure.
The controversial measure has struggled to follow through on its goals.
Now, Oregon overdose deaths are rising even the city of Medford has come out against it.
The coalition of people across the state has already seen the backing of multiple prominent individuals and groups.
It is looking to re-introduce legal consequences for drug possession among other changes.
Measure 110 was passed by voters back in 2020.
It decriminalized the possession of drugs, even methamphetamine, fentanyl and heroin.
It invested in drug treatment centers which intended to address addiction as health issues, rather than legal ones.
But in the years since, Oregon’s drug problem appears to have gotten worse.
In just the last couple months here, Jackson County Commissioners and the Medford City Council, has publicly taken stances against measure 110.
Jackson County Sheriff, Nathan Sickler said, “we just don’t have the teeth any longer in the criminal justice system to try and intervene.”
Sheriff Sickler has been outspoken against 110 for years.
He says it’s not effective because there is no real way to enforce change.
Sheriff Sickler said, “we’ve had a significant increase in overdose deaths, we’ve had a significant increase in drug use. Some of the city areas just littered with needles and trash and other things that are consistent with drug use.”
That’s why Sheriff Sickler signed on as a chief petitioner, in a new effort to fix 110.
Former head of Oregon’s Department of Corrections and the Oregon Community Foundation, Max Williams said, “measure 110 didn’t create our homelessness crisis, it didn’t create our behavioral health crisis and it isn’t our sole reason for our increases in crime, but what we know is that it’s making all of those things worse.”
Williams is leading the statewide coalition.
He’s clear, they don’t want to repeal 110, but make changes to it.
Such as, treating minor drug possession as a misdemeanor crime and making treatment mandatory instead of voluntary.
Williams said, “the current version really doesn’t have any motivation for people who are dealing with these high levels of addiction and these incredibly powerful drugs; these lethal drugs of fentanyl, heroin and methamphetamine, to be motivated to actually seek treatment.”
Before, public drug users might be handed a citation and a hotline where they could receive help, but the coalition argues, there’s no one to hold them accountable.
Sheriff Sickler says he signed on because it’s not about putting people in jail but rather about helping push people toward treatment.
Sheriff Sickler said, “it’s a lot more, I think, comprehensive and well written to provide some local control especially regarding drug use in public. It gives people who enter into treatment and successfully complete it to have their sentences adjudicated or expunged. So, it’s not just a hammer.”
Williams says that there is still much to be done but is hoping that there can be legislative action as early as possible.
If not, he hopes voters will fix it a year from now.
Williams said, “the earliest this can be on the ballot is November 2024 so more than a year from now and we just think with the overdose rates and the damage that’s happening across our communities, the individuals being affected, that that’s too long. We need to act now.”
The coalition has also received the support from notable company founders and CEOs from Columbia Sportswear and Nike to former gubernatorial candidate, Betsy Johnson.
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