Oregon House Republicans are sharing their plan to end the state’s voter-approved drug decriminalization experiment at the same time Democratic lawmakers are weighing a more modest re-criminalization proposal. 

“The citizens of Oregon understand the failures of Measure 110,” Rep. Rick Lewis, one of the chief sponsors of the GOP bill, said in a statement. “We see the results on the streets, in the unacceptable overdose death rate and in the catastrophic consequences to our communities, to public safety and to livability. Change is needed, and we can’t afford to take small steps that fail to adequately address the problem.”

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About 58% of Oregon voters passed Measure 110 in 2020, decriminalizing small amounts of all drugs and redirecting much of the state’s marijuana tax revenue to fund grants for addiction services.

Since then, addiction and overdose deaths have skyrocketed in Oregon and nationwide as fentanyl swept across the country. Now, three years into the first-of-its-kind law, numerous polls show Oregonians favor re-criminalizing hard drugs and making treatment required, not voluntary, as a jail alternative.

The Republican bill would make possession of drugs like fentanyl, heroin and meth a Class A misdemeanor and would require treatment to avoid jail. If convicted, drug users could face up to a year in jail, a $6,250 fine, or both.

“Enabling people to live on the streets and poison themselves is not compassionate,” Rep. Tracy Cramer said in a statement.

The bill would also ban public drug use and set harsher prison sentences for drug dealers, especially if they sell drugs that result in a person’s death.

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Democrats, who control both chambers of the state legislature, have also signaled a desire to roll back parts of Measure 110 during their upcoming 35-day legislative session. One possibility is making possession a Class C misdemeanor, the lowest crime classification.

But reform advocates staunchly oppose re-criminalizing drugs.

“Any action by the Oregon legislature that criminalizes addiction would be cruel, harmful, and a failure of leadership,” read a statement from the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, Health Justice Recovery Alliance and other groups supporting Measure 110.

“We cannot regress back to the failed war on drug tactics that harm Black, brown, and poor people and make drug addiction, overdose deaths, and homelessness more difficult and expensive to solve,” the statement continued.

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In Portland, where the effects of Oregon’s drug laws are most stark, city officials have been urging the state to take action.

“We need to give tools to our first responders so they can take action,” City Commissioner Dan Ryan told Fox News on Thursday. “If someone is smoking fentanyl in public and it’s causing harm to those who are trying to access the sidewalk, then the police need to be able to respond to that … It’s just common sense.”

Portland’s City Council unanimously passed an ordinance banning public drug use in September. But city officials said the law couldn’t go into effect until state lawmakers pass a new law allowing them to enforce it.

Senate Majority Leader Kate Lieber told the Capital Chronicle that Democrats are working with Republicans to “put together a proposal that connects people to addiction treatment, gets drugs off our streets, and keeps our communities safe.”

“We know we cannot go back to the failed war on drugs, and we cannot continue to allow Oregonians to die of drug overdoses on our streets,” Lieber said in a statement to the outlet. “A policy has not been finalized, but once we do have a proposal to put forward, we look forward to thoroughly vetting the ideas through a public process.”

Inside of homeless woman's tent with needles, foil, DVD case and other items

The short session begins Feb. 5.

A coalition of political and business leaders in Oregon have also lobbied the legislature to reform Measure 110 and promises to send a ballot measure to the voters if lawmakers don’t take action next month.

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