Mayor Ted Wheeler Has Plans to Criminalize Public Drug Use

The details of how he will do it remain unclear. His office said it would provide further updates next week.

NOD: For much of the year, fentanyl use was widespread in front of former KeyBank branch, SW 5th Ave. and SW Washington St., in downtown Portland. (Brian Burk)

WW has learned that Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler is crafting a city ordinance that would outlaw the public consumption of hard drugs, including fentanyl, and he’s proposing criminal penalties.

Oregon voters decriminalized the personal possession of small amounts of hard drugs with the passage of Measure 110 in 2020. That policy change coincided with an explosion in public drug use on Portland’s streets, infuriating downtown business and property owners.

Related: One of Portland’s Top Real Estate Families Owns a Building That Contains a Fentanyl Market

Measure 110 eliminated criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of hard drugs, replacing them with a $100 fine. In recent months, Portland police have begun handing out more of those fines to fentanyl users downtown.

Now, the mayor is looking to levy criminal penalties as well.

It is unclear how Wheeler will do this under existing law. A spokesman for the mayor, Cody Bowman, confirmed that Wheeler was considering the idea but declined to provide specifics. He said more details would be released “mid-next week.”

In recent days, Wheeler has spoken to stakeholders about his intentions, said people familiar with the conversations. He discussed the upcoming restrictions this week at an annual meeting of the Portland Business Alliance, KATU-TV first reported.

WW has asked the Portland Police Bureau and the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office for an explanation of how this new initiative could be enforced. This article will be updated when they respond.

The mayor’s proposal follows rapidly upon the Portland City Council passing his ordinance that prohibits tent camping between the hours of 8 am and 8 pm, and establishes criminal penalties for people who refuse shelter.

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