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Measure 110 Reconsidered: Balancing Public Health and Safety in the Face of Escalating Drug Issues in Oregon

We can no longer overlook the devastating impact of drugs on our community.

Growing concerns are spreading throughout Deschutes County and across Oregon concerning Measure 110. This legislation, implemented in 2020, sought to address the state's drug addiction problem by decriminalizing drug use and directing cannabis revenue toward addiction programs. However, since its enactment, there has been a noticeable increase in overdoses and fentanyl use on the streets. Additionally, the slow allocation of grants to service providers by the state has intensified these concerns.

In response to these issues, both state legislators and the general public are advocating for the repeal of Measure 110. The focus was maintaining financial support for addiction services while encouraging individuals to pursue treatment. It is widely acknowledged that the measure has worsened the situation, resulting in loss of lives, homelessness, fractured families, and a decline in safety in Deschutes County. There exists a shared responsibility to enhance the circumstances for those grappling with addiction, their families, and our communities, and Measure 110 is falling short of fulfilling this duty.

Currently, law enforcement issues $100 tickets to drug users, not intended as criminal penalties but as a method to promote treatment. However, these tickets have proven ineffective. The nominal amount, less than a standard parking ticket, fails to motivate individuals deeply entrenched in addiction to address the issue. Expecting the impaired and addicted to make rational decisions about their health and well-being is unrealistic.

In 2021, a groundbreaking decision by the Oregon Court of Appeals overturned more than three decades of legal precedent in defining the crime of "delivering a controlled substance" under state law. This change raised the evidentiary threshold for convicting individuals of drug dealing, forcing law enforcement and prosecutors to pursue lesser possession charges with more lenient penalties.

The Oregon Supreme Court recently upheld the appeals court opinion, establishing it as the prevailing legal standard.

Although lawmakers cannot alter this legal interpretation, they have the authority to amend state law. After two consecutive years of unsuccessful attempts to introduce legislation countering the court's decision, Oregon prosecutors are now feeling a surge of support.

I believe there is an urgent need to strike a balance between a public health approach and public safety, encouraging active treatment and recovery. The primary objective is to guide addicts into treatment rather than incarceration, preventing the escalation of their addiction-related issues to serious crimes that could lead to imprisonment. Any new proposal must hold people accountable should they choose not to accept or participate in the provided treatment services.

Oregon lawmakers are set to begin discussions on changes to Measure 110 during next weeks short session. This is an excellent time to call or email your elected state representative and express your concerns about M110 and the upcoming session.

We can no longer overlook the devastating impact of drugs on our community. As your next Sheriff, I will responsibly push back against our state government's erosion of public safety and fight against legislation that makes our communities less safe.

This requires an experienced, frontline leader who understands the complexities of these drug issues. A leader challenging existing norms and striving to improve the system is needed. Please join me and vote to bring change to Deschutes County.  Vote Kent Vander Kamp for Deschutes County Sheriff.

Kent currently leads the field operations of the Central Oregon Drug Enforcement Team (CODE), a multi-agency and multi-jurisdictional drug enforcement task force. In addition to CODE, Kent also leads a statewide non-profit drug diversion and education program raising awareness and educating youth and adults to prevent substance misuse impaired driving, and to promote mental health and wellness.


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