The debate between education vs prosecution regarding drugs
rages on in most of the United States, but Oregon legislature
has just taken one massive step toward real decriminalization.
Last week, two landmark bills passed the house and senate that
would not only reduce sentences for minor drug charges, but
also “defelonizes” at least six drugs, including cocaine and
According to Herb,
- House Bill 378 reduces drug-related property crimes from
felonies to misdemeanors. It passed 33-26 in the House and
18-11 in the Senate.
House Bill 2355 would
decriminalize at least six drugs, as long as the person
doesn’t have any prior felonies or more than two prior drug
convictions. It passed the House 36-23 and the Senate 20-9.
The “six drugs” listed in House Bill 2355 are methadone,
oxycodone, heroin, MDMA, cocaine, and methamphetamines.
Unlawful possession of: methadone would be moved from a Class C
felony to a Class A misdemeanor; Oxycodone would be moved from
a Class C felony to a Class A misdemeanor; heroin would be
moved from a Class B felony to a Class A misdemeanor; MDMA
would be moved from a Class B felony to a Class
A misdemeanor; cocaine would be moved from a Class C
felony to a Class A misdemeanor; methamphetamines would be
moved from a Class C felony to a Class A misdemeanor; the
reclassifications are dependent on the stipulations stated
Other steps in the bill include: Up to 40 hits of LSD is
no longer a felony; Up to a gram of MDMA is no longer a
felony; Up to 14 grams of ‘any mixture containing
psilocybin’ also no longer a felony.
Oregon has a history of being on the forefront of drug
legislation, as the very first state to decriminalize
small amounts of cannabis in 1973. State voters legalized
medical marijuana in 1998, and recreational use in 2015.
Rep. Mitch Greenlick (D-Portland) agrees with many drug
education experts that addiction should be treated as a health
problem, and not a criminal one.
“We’ve got to treat people, not put them in prison. It
would be like putting them in the state penitentiary for
having diabetes. This is a chronic brain disorder and it needs
to be treated this way.” – Greenlick
One of the few Republicans who supported both bills in
Senate, Sen. Jackie Winters (R-Salem), also the
longest-serving African-American woman in Oregon Senate
history, referred to “institutional racism” when faced with
criticism from her party.
“There is empirical evidence that there are certain things
that follow race. We don’t like to look at the disparity in our
prison system. It is institutional racism … We can pretend it
doesn’t exist, but it does.” – Winters
In addition to lessening of criminal penalties, HB 2355 also
aims to cut back on racial profiling by police. Police would be
required to “collect data on race and other demographic
information during law enforcement stops,” according to
the Criminal Justice Commission.
Both bills now head to Democratic Gov. Kate Brown for her