Drug decriminalization to recriminalization: Oregon governor signs legislative alteration of 2020’s Measure 110

Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek (D) signed House Bill 4002 (HB 4002) on April 1, repealing provisions of Measure 110. Measure 110 received 58.46% of the vote in 2020.

Measure 110 reclassified the possession of Schedule I-IV controlled substances, such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamines, from Class A misdemeanors to Class E misdemeanors, resulting in a $100 fine or a completed health assessment. Individuals who manufacture or distribute illegal drugs were still subject to a criminal penalty under Measure 110. 

HB 4002 will make the possession of certain amounts of drugs, such as cocaine, fentanyl, heroin, and methamphetamine a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail starting on Sept. 1. The bill also authorizes police to confiscate illicit drugs and stop their use in public parks and on sidewalks. The bill also encourages law enforcement agencies and prosecutors to refer individuals convicted of possession to drug treatment programs.

In a letter to Senate President Rob Wagner (D) and House Speaker Julie Fahey (D), Gov. Kotek said, “Implementation of House Bill 4002 will be complex, but committing to clarity and coordination is one way to improve its likelihood of long-term success. Therefore, I direct the Criminal Justice Commission to leverage their full authority for deflection programs to use a standardized certification document that is easily identifiable as evidence of a person’s successful completion.”

Senate Republican Leader Tim Knopp, who opposed Measure 110 and voted in favor of HB 4002 said, “Now that the Governor has given the recriminalization bill her stamp of approval, we can finally end the chapter on Oregon’s experiment with decriminalizing hard drugs. HB 4002 is not a perfect solution; legislators will undoubtedly have much more work to do in upcoming sessions. But it sets a standard for how the state should approach the drug addiction crisis: by empowering law enforcement and our behavioral health systems to work together to help Oregonians struggling with chronic addiction seek life-saving treatment.”

HB 4002 passed in the House by a vote of 51-7 and in the Senate by a vote of 21-8.

Measure 110 was a citizen-initiated state statute sponsored by More Treatment for a Better Oregon. It received endorsements from the Democratic Party of Oregon, AFSCME, ACLU, Sixteen Thirty Fund, Drug Policy Action, and New Approach Oregon. To qualify for the 2020 ballot, the campaign had to submit at least 112,020 valid signatures, equal to 6% of the votes in the last gubernatorial election.

HB 4002 is a legislative alteration to an initiated state statute. A legislative alteration is when lawmakers repeal or amend citizen-initiated laws after voters have approved them. There are 21 states with a process for initiated state statutes. Eleven states have no restrictions on legislative alteration, two states—Arizona and California—require voter approval of substantive alterations, and the remaining eight states have either time restrictions, supermajority vote requirements, or a combination of the two. Oregon is one of the states with no restrictions.

From 2010 through 2023, 149 initiated state statutes and three initiated ordinances in D.C. were approved by voters. Of these 152 initiatives from 2010 through 2023, 30 were legislatively altered as of April 2024. Oregon had a 50% rate of legislative alteration of initiatives approved from 2010 through 2023 with four of the eight approved initiatives altered. The states with the highest rates of legislative alteration for that period were Idaho (one initiative passed and later altered) and Utah (three initiatives passed and later altered).

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