Oregon governor to sign bill recriminalizing drugs after backlash

Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek (D) said she will sign a bill that will reverse an important portion of the Beaver State’s drug decriminalization law Thursday.

“I intend to sign House Bill 4002 and the related prevention and treatment investments within the next 30 days,” Kotek said in a statement Thursday.

Both the Oregon state Senate and House passed the bill last Friday, which lets law enforcement seize drugs if they are used in parks or on sidewalks. The small possession of drugs like heroin could also result in a misdemeanor and up to six months in prison. However, there is also an alternative to penalties by way of drug treatment.

“House Bill 4002 will require persistent action and commitment from state and local government to uphold the intent that the legislature put forward: to balance treatment for individuals struggling with addiction and accountability,” Kotek continued in her statement.

In 2021, Oregon became the first state to sign a drug decriminalization law. However, the state has recently faced a large rise in overdose deaths and had the second-highest rate of substance abuse disorder in the U.S., per a 2023 audit report. The decriminalization law has also resulted in criticism and pressure from the right due to the drug problems the state has been dealing with as of recent.

The legislation has faced scrutiny from some lawmakers for not creating enough recovery opportunities for people. Sen. Law Frederick (D-Portland) said that it would employ failed methods from the past.

“I’m concerned that it (the bill) will attempt to use the same tactics of the past, and fail, only to reinforce the punishment narrative that has failed for 50 years,” Frederick said, according to AP.

Senate Republican Leader Tim Knopp (R-Bend) said in a statement in the wake of the bill’s passage that he was “proud to stand on the right side of history by casting my vote in favor” of the legislation.

“In this historic vote to reimpose criminal penalties for drug possession, we are making it clear that Oregon is no longer a drug tourism state,” Knopp said in his statement.

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