Under pressure from a business-backed coalition threatening a ballot fight, Oregon’s top policymakers today announced the creation of a new committee tasked with addressing the state’s drug and addiction crisis. Oregon had nearly 1,400 fatal overdoses last year.
The new Joint Interim Committee on Addiction and Community Safety Response will consider new laws while providing additional oversight over money that’s already being spent, the legislators said.
A major target on its radar: Measure 110, the decriminalization law passed by voters in 2020. Enthusiasm for the measure has waned in recent years as fentanyl swept the state.
“The committee will review policy proposals brought forward, including changes to the Drug Decriminalization and Addiction Treatment Act (Measure 110) to ensure outcomes are in-line with voters’ intent of connecting people to treatment instead of criminal punishment for low-level possession,” reads a press release distributed by the Senate president’s and House speaker’s offices.
The committee, co-chaired by Rep. Jason Kropf (D-Bend) and Sen. Kate Lieber (D-Southwest Portland), includes five Democrats and three Republicans. It will begin meeting in “the coming weeks,” the press release says.
In an interview with WW, Lieber said all options are on the table to address the deadly consequences of fentanyl flooding the state, including treatment, enforcement tools, and preventative education. “We are literally chasing the tsunami,” she said.
In response, top state Republicans criticized Democrats for doing too little, too late. “I am relieved that Democrat leaders have finally recognized the responsibility we have to address a problem exacerbated by their failed policies and prolonged by their inaction,” House Minority Leader Jeff Helfrich (R-Hood River) said in a press release. “However, the same people who helped create the problem and continue to perpetuate the problem will not solve the problem.”
The extent to which Measure 110 contributed to the crisis remains unclear.
The Republican press release cited the “deadly consequences” of Measure 110, asserting that “since its implementation, overdoses rose 61% compared to 13% nationally.” A study published earlier this week in a top psychiatric research journal, however, concluded that there was “no evidence” of a link between decriminalization in Oregon and fatal overdoses.