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Former Prosecutor, Doctor Make Case for Drug Decriminalization Measure

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Wednesday, October 14, 2020   

BEND, Ore. -- Oregonians in law enforcement and medicine are supporting a measure to decriminalize drug possession and fund addiction treatment.

On Nov. 3, Oregon voters will decide the fate of Measure 110, which would reclassify drug possession as a misdemeanor and direct marijuana tax revenue of more than $11.25 million to the Drug Treatment and Recovery Services Fund.

Inge Fryklund, a former prosecutor in Chicago who now lives in Bend, said she has changed her mind on the "War on Drugs," noting racial disparities in arrests. She said drug use should be treated as a health issue.

"What we were doing wasn't helping people who were on drugs, wasn't making the world any safer; and we were damaging the individual people who were getting arrested," she said, "and I started thinking about the knock-on effects for their families."

The measure has support from groups including the Law Enforcement Action Partnership and Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility. Opponents have said it will lead to increased drug use and crime rates. The advocacy group Oregon Recovers has said Measure 110 is poorly written and "dismantles one system of intervention before building a new system."

Willy Foster, an emergency physician in Florence, also volunteers at free clinics for people experiencing homelessness in the Eugene area. He said he supports the measure, noting the treatment options that potentially will come from it are most important. Foster said he has few options for people who come to the hospital for issues related to drug use.

"The best clinics are going to be ones that don't just say, 'Oh, here. Take this medicine for your addiction,' but really treat the whole person, in terms of getting them job training, housing - all that kind of stuff," he said, "because that's just as vital in addressing these addiction issues."

Oregon ranks 48th for the percentage of people who are able to access drug treatment, with more than 280,000 not receiving the care they need, according to federal data. Projections estimate the measure would bring in from $103 million to $159 million a year for substance-use disorder services.

The text of Measure 110 is online at oregonvotes.org, and Oregon's drug-treatment ranking is at samhsa.gov.


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