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OR Drug Decriminalization Law Goes Into Effect

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Monday, February 1, 2021   

PORTLAND, Ore. -- One of the country's biggest rollbacks of restrictive drug laws goes into effect today in Oregon.

In November, voters passed a measure to decriminalize possession of small amounts of drugs, making it the first state in the country to do so.

Tera Hurst, executive director for the Oregon Health Justice Recovery Alliance, said possession will go from a misdemeanor to a citation, and on that citation will be a number to call for recovery help.

"The options will be to pay a $100 fine or call a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week phone line and talk to a peer-support specialist and get a social-services needs screening done," Hurst outlined.

Hurst said they then can be connected to someone in their community.

Services for treatment options are funded through a portion of marijuana tax revenue.

Critics of the new law said it's flawed and are particularly concerned with how it will play out for youths, since there is no language on whether their parents should be notified.

The law's oversight and accountability council is forming today as well.

Hurst explained it will determine rules for the new law and also where grants and money are disbursed.

"[The council will] really focus on communities most harmed by the war on drugs," Hurst shared. "So in Oregon that's Black, indigenous, native, tribal and Latinx communities, and then people with lived experience, incarcerated for drug use and people in recovery."

Hurst noted a lot of states are interested in what happens with Oregon's decriminalization law.

"You needed somebody to jump in the pool," Hurst remarked. "And now I think people are watching to see how it goes but also really excited by the momentum that this created."


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