g personal drug use in 2020 and focusing on drug addiction treatment instead, but the results to date have been underwhelming, The Associated Press reports.
Along with decriminalization, Oregon’s Ballot Measure 110 aimed to raise revenue from recreational marijuana sales and drug possession fines to fund addiction treatment and related services.
However, an audit of the new law’s implementation released this year highlighted the lack of progress in its implementation. Shemia Fagan, Oregon’s secretary of state, said it would be premature to call it a failure, but acknowledged its slow progress to date, including delays in funding for treatment programs.
James Schroeder, director of the Oregon Health Authority, said funding delays were caused in part by “ambitious implementation timelines and stretched Oregon Health Authority staffing resources due to the pandemic.”
In the meantime, drug abuse and overdose deaths have followed upward nationwide trends, according to the AP. Oregon ranks second in substances use disorder and 50th for access to treatment.
According the auditors, only 1% of the people who have been ticketed for drug possession and given a hotline number have sought help via such treatment services during the first year of implementation, which began February 2021.
Critics said officials were wrong to presume that simply expanding access to treatment would be sufficient to get those suffering from drug addictions to seek help.
“Without some external pressure, most people will not attempt to reduce their drug use via treatment or other means,” said Keith Humphreys, professor of psychiatry at Stanford University and a former senior adviser in the White House Office of National Drug Policy.
Recommendations in the auditors’ report were candid in acknowledging the bureaucratic failures that produced insufficient and uncoordinated services, according to Humphreys.
However, he added that, “In contrast, the report does not deal adequately with the fact that statewide efforts to use tickets/fines for drug possession to incentivize people to enter treatment was a complete failure.”
Notably, Oregon’s law is modeled on similar successful efforts such as in Portugal. However, Portugal is much more vigorous in getting people into treatment, said the article.
According to Schroeder, the success of the measure depends on the ability to solve challenges such as expanding treatment capacity and better supporting counselors and health care workers.
Fagan said she was a strong supporter of Measure 110 given that her brother has struggled with drug addiction. She said her family “couldn’t find an inpatient facility to take him, despite the fact that he had really hit rock bottom.”
She added that her brother has finally received help but emphasized the high stakes.
“Make no mistake, this is a matter of life and death,” Fagan said. “Measure 110 must work because real people’s lives hang in the balance.”