Get the Facts
Oregon is in the middle of an addiction crisis, and our state’s lack of addiction recovery services is destroying lives and exacerbating many of our state’s most pressing problems, like houselessness. People are dying from drug overdoses every single day, while one in 10 Oregonians struggles with Substance Use Disorder. The pandemic has only made things worse; nearly 40% more Oregonians died of opioid overdoses in 2020 than in 2019 while deaths from stimulants grew 21%, according to Oregon State Medical Examiner data.
Meanwhile, people of color, specifically Black, Indigenous, and Latinx communities and low-income Oregonians, continue to be disproportionately harmed by Oregon’s failed approach of treating addiction like a crime, rather than a health issue; they are underrepresented in the healthcare system, while being overrepresented in the criminal justice system.
The Drug Addiction Treatment & Recovery Act offers an innovative solution to help Oregonians and their families now, at a time when Oregon’s addiction crisis is growing at an alarming rate.
Oregon’s new law expands access to treatment and removes unfairly harsh punishments for minor, nonviolent drug offenses, so people with addiction can more easily recover. People will no longer be arrested and put in jail simply for possession of small amounts of drugs. Instead, they will receive a health assessment and be connected to the right treatment or recovery services, including housing assistance, to help them get their lives back on track.
How it Works
1. The new law will utilize and expand existing community-based providers as Behavioral Health Resource Networks to provide services throughout the state to immediately assess the needs of people who use drugs and link them to treatment, care and services.
2. Drug possession will be decriminalized, reducing criminal possession offenses from misdemeanors to civil infractions. Instead of arrests and criminal records, people found to be possessing small amounts of drugs will be cited and fined $100. They will be given the phone number for a 24/7 support line to connect them with a local peer support specialist. The peer will conduct a social services needs assessment. Upon completion, their fine will be waived and they will be linked to vital services. Call (503) 575-3769 to reach the support line.
3. It increases access to vital services, including:
- Behavioral Health Treatment that is evidence-based, trauma-informed, culturally specific, linguistically accessible, and patient-centered;
- Peer support and recovery services designed to help people remain clean and sober;
- Housing for persons with Substance Use Disorder;
- Harm reduction interventions including overdose prevention, access to naloxone hydrochloride and other drug education and outreach.
- Services will be paid for with grants from excess cannabis tax revenue above $45 million a year and law enforcement savings.
4. It guarantees oversight and accountability. The Act establishes an Oversight and Accountability Council composed of people with lived experience and addiction and service delivery experts. Supported by the Oregon Health Authority, the Council will determine how funds will be distributed to grant applicants for increasing community access to care. The Secretary of State will conduct financial and performance audits every two years.
The Act does not legalize any drugs.
It removes criminal penalties for low-level possession of all drugs, currently classified as misdemeanors, replacing them with a fine. These fines can be waived by being evaluated at Behavioral Health Resource Networks, which will be made available in all parts of the state, 24 hours a day.
- No change is made in the criminal code for delivery, manufacture, and other commercial drug offenses. These offenses will remain a crime.
- No change is made for other crimes that may be associated with drug use, such as driving under the influence and theft.
Timeline for Implementation
- December 3, 2020: Law goes into effect. At least $57 million in funds from cannabis tax revenue will be transferred to the Drug Treatment and Recovery Services Fund for the first year of the Act.
- February 1, 2021: Decriminalization provisions take effect; Oversight & Accountability Council appointed; 24/7 telephone hotline established.
- June 2021: First round of community grants awarded.
- September 1, 2021: Oregon Administrative Rules to distribute grant money by the Council must be adopted.
- January 2022: Behavioral Health Resource Networks must be available in each county.