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Oregon voters souring on Measure 110, with many in favor of a complete repeal, new poll finds

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AUG. 23, 2023

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A majority of Oregonians support repealing the state’s landmark law that decriminalized small amounts of street drugs and funneled hundreds of millions of tax dollars into treatment programs and services, a new poll found.

Emerson College Polling, a leading pollster, conducted the survey this month, finding 56% of Oregonians support a total repeal of Measure 110, with 64% saying they support repealing parts of the law.

“The takeaways are, Republican or Democrat, people want change,” said Kevin Sabet, who leads the Foundation for Drug Policy Solutions, the national organization that commissioned the poll. “They don’t like Measure 110.”

Sabet worked as a drug-policy advisor under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama and is a prominent opponent of cannabis legalization.

Half of those polled said the law makes the community much less safe.

Measure 110 drew its strongest support from voters in Oregon’s Portland-centric 1st Congressional District. Its stiffest opposition was among voters in the 2nd Congressional District, which stretches across eastern Oregon.

More broadly, 58% of Oregon voters say the state is on the wrong track, compared with 42% who think it is headed in the right direction, the poll found.

The poll’s margin of error is +/-3%. One thousand registered voters took part in the survey.

The Emerson poll echoed a report from Portland State University earlier this year that found law enforcement officers in Oregon see Measure 110 as ineffective and harmful to public safety.

Advocates pitched Measure 110 as a transformation of Oregon’s approach to addiction. Instead of cycling people through jail, the law was designed to steer them toward treatment and other help, such as housing assistance and peer counseling.

The campaign for the initiative took place just before fentanyl, a cheap, super-addictive synthetic opioid, became an entrenched and well-known scourge in Oregon and across the country.

Measure 110, passed in 2020, put minor drug possession on par with a traffic ticket.

Those cited for drug possession are given the option to call a statewide hotline to get screened for substance-abuse treatment or pay a $100 fine. Anyone needing help with substance abuse can call the hotline: 503-575-3769.

But few of those cited so far have followed up with the screening or paid the fine, according to Oregon Judicial Department data.

Since the law went into effect on Feb. 1, 2021, 5,540 violations for drug possession have been filed in the state’s circuit court. The vast majority of people have ignored the requirement to pay the $100 fine or have the citation dismissed by calling the hotline, state data shows.

Sabet called the poll a warning for advocates who want to replicate the policy in other states.

“The rest of the country is watching Oregon very closely,” said Sabet, who’s based in British Columbia. “People around the country who did not know what Measure 110 was when it passed now know what it is because it’s become infamous.”

Measure 110 received major financial support from the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance, the same criminal-justice and drug-policy reform group that helped fund Oregon’s successful marijuana legalization effort in 2014.

The group’s political arm pumped about $5 million into the effort, according to state campaign finance records.

Tera Hurst, who leads the Oregon Health Justice Recovery Alliance, a coalition of state and national groups that supported Measure 110, including the Drug Policy Alliance, called it “understandable” that Oregonians are upset as the state confronts a fentanyl crisis and a rise in homelessness.

“And we all agree the state rollout of funds was a mess,” she said, adding that services to address those problems are “starting to come online” and include detox facilities, outpatient treatment and sober housing. She pointed out that citations are not the only way into treatment and that about 8,400 people so far have received treatment services funded by Measure 110, according to the latest data.

She said the law is helping people with addiction “get the services they need, whether they live on the street or elsewhere in the community.”

-- Noelle Crombie;; 503-276-7184; @noellecrombie

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