State of Emergency Declared in Downtown Portland
Oregon, the first state to decriminalize drug possession, is facing a severe fentanyl crisis. The state has declared a 90-day state of emergency in downtown Portland, where the fentanyl crisis is most pronounced. Overdose deaths in the state skyrocketed from 800 in 2020 to 1,394 in 2022, with the majority of fatal overdoses attributed to fentanyl.
Concerns Over the Impact of Decriminalization
Measure 110, which decriminalized drug possession, was approved by nearly 60% of voters in Oregon. However, three years later, there are growing concerns that the move has led to increased addiction, overdoses, and crime. State lawmakers are now considering re-criminalizing drug possession in a special legislative session. Democrats and Republicans have drafted competing bills for this purpose.
The Devastating Rise of Fentanyl
Fentanyl has become Oregon’s deadliest drug. The surge in fentanyl use began around 2018, surpassing methamphetamine as the drug of choice in the state. The small blue pills, which resemble Oxycodone, flooded the market and were cheap to produce. The number of fentanyl pills seized by law enforcement skyrocketed from about 100,000 in 2019 to over 3 million in 2022. The ingredients to make fentanyl are typically shipped from China to Mexico and then distributed throughout the United States.
Impact on Communities and Individuals
Fentanyl has had devastating effects on communities and individuals in Oregon. Homeless populations have been particularly affected, with many individuals suffering from mental illness. The fentanyl crisis has created a sense of despair and desolation, with users becoming incoherent and resembling “living dead.” Many users have died, and those who have survived are in urgent need of treatment and support.
Debate Surrounding Drug Policies
The decriminalization of drugs in Oregon has sparked a heated debate among lawmakers. Critics argue that decriminalization has led to an increase in drug use and addiction, while proponents argue that it provides a health-focused approach to address drug-related issues. Lawmakers will meet in a special legislative session to determine the future of drug policies in the state. Democrats aim to make drug possession a violation, while Republicans propose stiffer penalties to incentivize individuals to seek treatment.
The Way Forward
Oregon faces a critical decision regarding drug policies. The state must address the fentanyl crisis and provide necessary support and treatment to those struggling with addiction. The upcoming legislative session will determine the future of drug decriminalization in Oregon and its potential impact on public health and safety.