Portland resembles an ‘open air drug market’ after legalizing hard drugs


Portland resembles an ‘open air drug market’ after legalizing hard drugs and overdose deaths skyrocket by 41% in the last year

  • Law enforcement agents say that the streets of Portland are full of homeless addicts openly buying and selling drugs
  • Photos show the desperate situation in the Pacific Northwest city, where people can be seen shooting up drugs or passed out in broad daylight
  • The dreadful scene comes 16 months after Ballot Measure 110 went into effect in February 2021
  • Oregon was the first state in the United States to decriminalize possession of personal-use amounts of heroin, methamphetamine, LSD, oxycodone 
  • But since the measure was passed overdose deaths in the state hit an all-time high in 2021 with 1069, a 41 percent increase from 2020

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The streets of Portland resemble an ‘open air drug market’ after state officials’ scheme to decriminalize hard drugs led to a surge in overdose deaths, critics claim. 

Law enforcement agents say that the streets of Portland are full of homeless addicts openly buying and selling drugs and that signs of drug addiction are actually increasing statewide, Fox News reported. 

Photos show the desperate situation in the Pacific Northwest city, where people can be seen shooting up drugs or passed out in broad daylight. 

The dreadful scene comes 16 months after Ballot Measure 110, which decriminalizes hard drugs, went into effect in February 2021.  

Photos show the desperate situation in the Pacific Northwest city, where people can be seen shooting up drugs or passed out in broad daylight

Photos show the desperate situation in the Pacific Northwest city, where people can be seen shooting up drugs or passed out in broad daylight

Law enforcement agents say that the streets of Portland are full of homeless addicts openly buying and selling drugs

Law enforcement agents say that the streets of Portland are full of homeless addicts openly buying and selling drugs

A man can be seen using a needle in Portland over a year after Ballot Measure 110 went into effect in February 2021

A man can be seen using a needle in Portland over a year after Ballot Measure 110 went into effect in February 2021

Drug overdose deaths in Oregon also hit an all-time high in 2021 with 1069, a 41 percent increase from 2020

Drug overdose deaths in Oregon also hit an all-time high in 2021 with 1069, a 41 percent increase from 2020

Oregon was the first state in the United States to decriminalize possession of personal-use amounts of heroin, methamphetamine, LSD, oxycodone and other drugs after voters approved a ballot measure in 2020 to decriminalize hard drugs.

A person found with personal amounts of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and other drugs receives a citation, like a traffic ticket, with the maximum $100 fine waived if they call a hotline for a health assessment. 

The state’s program, which has been promoted as a way to establish and fund addiction recovery centers that would offer people aid instead of incarceration, is being watched as a potential model for other states.

Drug overdose deaths in the state also hit an all-time high in 2021 with 1069, a 41 percent increase from 2020, Fox News reported. 

And of the 1,885 people who received tickets for personal possession in the first year, only 91 people, a measly one percent, called the hotline, according to its non-profit operator, Lines For Life.

Earlier this month, those behind the scheme admitted that they had underestimated the effort required to distributed the $300 million in funds for the program, and only $40 million has been spent.

‘So clearly, if we were to do it over again, I would have asked for many more staff much quicker in the process,’ said Steve Allen, Oregon’s behavioral health director.

‘We were just under-resourced to be able to support this effort, underestimated the work that was involved in supporting something that looked like this and partly we didn’t fully understand it until we were in the middle of it.’

The ballot measure redirected millions of dollars in tax revenue from the state’s legal marijuana industry to treatment. 

The streets of Downtown Portland are filled with open drug use, with the homeless using and buying hard drugs during the day

The streets of Downtown Portland are filled with open drug use, with the homeless using and buying hard drugs during the day

After Ballot Measure 110 was passed a person found with personal amounts of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and other drugs receives a citation, like a traffic ticket, with the maximum $100 fine waived if they call a hotline for a health assessment

After Ballot Measure 110 was passed a person found with personal amounts of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and other drugs receives a citation, like a traffic ticket, with the maximum $100 fine waived if they call a hotline for a health assessment

Emergency personnel carries a man away as the drug use in the streets of Portland is said to be rampant after the passing of Ballot Measure 110

Emergency personnel carries a man away as the drug use in the streets of Portland is said to be rampant after the passing of Ballot Measure 110

Pictured: A homeless encampment in Old Town Portland, Oregon in May 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic

Pictured: A homeless encampment in Old Town Portland, Oregon in May 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic

As the city deals with a rising homelessness problem, more than 16,000 Oregonians have accessed services through Measure 110 funding

As the city deals with a rising homelessness problem, more than 16,000 Oregonians have accessed services through Measure 110 funding

A woman enters the Great Circle drug treatment center in Salem, Oregon

A woman enters the Great Circle drug treatment center in Salem, Oregon 

But applications for funding stacked up after state officials underestimated the work required to vet them and get the money out the door, officials testified earlier this month before the House Interim Committee on Behavioral Health.

Allen, who works for the Oregon Health Authority, insisted the scheme has strong potential, saying officials have ‘over-relied on traditional treatment.’

‘The service array, the types of services that are included, the approach, the harm reduction, etc., are all designed by people who have experienced this and have, I think, some really interesting, good ideas about what these service systems ought to look like,’ he said.

‘So it’s an experiment. I think we’ll know more in a few years.’

Yet Lily Morgan, a Republican state politician representing Grants Pass, said lives are being lost while the state waits for the ballot measure to have a positive effect.

New possession limits 

Under the new Oregon law that went into effect in February 2021, offenders caught with the following drug amounts can avoid criminal charges:

  • Less than 1 gram of heroin
  • Less than 1 gram, or less than 5 pills, of MDMA
  • Less than 2 grams of methamphetamine
  • Less than 40 units of LSD
  • Less than 12 grams of psilocybin
  • Less than 40 units of methadone
  • Less than 40 pills of oxycodone
  • Less than 2 grams of cocaine

Offenders caught with the following amounts of drugs will be charged with misdemeanor simple possession, rather than a felony:  

  • 1 to 3 grams of heroin
  • 1 to 4 grams of MDMA
  • 2 to 8 grams of methamphetamine
  • 2 to 8 grams of cocaine

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‘Director, you’ve mentioned a couple of times that you’re waiting to see – and yet we have overdoses increasing at drastic rates,’ she said.

‘In my community, a 700 percent increase in overdoses and a 120 percent increase in deaths.

‘How long do we wait before we have an impact that we’re saving lives?’

Secretary of State Shemia Fagan appeared before the committee, and described her mother’s struggles with heroin and methamphetamine addiction before she recovered.

Fagan said Oregon remains in a drug abuse crisis, despite the ballot measure.

‘When the voters of Oregon passed Measure 110, we did so because it was a change of policy in Oregon to improve the lives of people, to improve our communities,’ Fagan said.

‘And in the years since, we haven’t seen that play out.

‘Instead, in many communities in Oregon, we’ve seen the problem with drug addiction get worse.

Allen acknowledged there has been a ‘dramatic’ increase in overdoses and overdose deaths statewide and attributed much of the cause to the recent arrival of methamphetamine laced with fentanyl – a synthetic opioid that is so powerful that a tiny amount can kill – and illicit pills containing fentanyl.

That adds urgency to the effort to provide treatment services and harm reduction, like medication to treat overdoses and needle exchanges, that the measure also pays for, he said.

The health authority said $40 million in funds have been disbursed.

But about $265 million set aside for the 2021-23 biennium still hasn’t been spent, said Devon Downeysmith, spokeswoman for the Health Justice Recovery Alliance.

Hundreds of providers, which screen the needs of people who use drugs, offer case management, treatment, housing and links to other services, are waiting for those funds.

More than 16,000 Oregonians have accessed services through Measure 110 funding, according to the Drug Policy Alliance, which spearheaded the measure.

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