One Lawmaker Refuses to Criminalize Fentanyl Possession

Rep. Farrah Chaichi took a bold position.

Rep. Farrah Chaichi (Mick Hangland-Skill)

When the Oregon Legislature voted last week to criminalize possession of small amounts of fentanyl, the hyperpowered opioid that kills more people under 50 than even cancer, there was one dissenter: Rep. Farrah Chaichi (D-Beaverton). It was a bold position, bucking every other member of her caucus.

In a letter to the clerk of the House, Chaichi, 37, said she reviewed testimony “really trying to get to yes,” but couldn’t because the bill marked a return to the war on drugs, which was an abysmal failure.

“This bill has been referred to as another tool in the toolbox, but like so many tools in the War on Drugs, this is another hammer,” Chaichi wrote.

Supporters say the bill fixed a blind spot in Oregon law: Without it, there is no misdemeanor charge for fentanyl possession, as there is for all other illicit drugs. And Measure 110, the 2020 referendum that decriminalized small amounts of some hard drugs, makes no mention of fentanyl.

Chaichi, who works at a Portland law firm, is an iconoclast, even for Oregon. She sponsored the controversial Oregon Right to Rest Act, which would have decriminalized camping in public places and allowed homeless people to sue if harassed.

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