By editorial board • 

Public not ready to lift penalty for possession of narcotics

Thanks to William Simon U’Ren, dubbed “Referendum U’Ren” for his devotion to the cause, Oregon pioneered the initiative and referendum process nationally in 1902. The vehicle was the first voter-approved amendment to the Oregon Constitution since its adoption in 1859.

Fittingly, Oregon also holds the record for total number of statewide initiatives in a single year, 27 in 1912, as well as the most overall, nearly 400. But this year, voters will be deciding only four — legislative referrals 107 on campaign finance and 108 on tobacco taxes, followed by citizen initiatives 109 on clinical use of psilocybin and 110 on drug decriminalization/addiction treatment.

We are recommending approval of all but 110. The most extensive and controversial of the lot, it would make Oregon the first state to decriminalize simple possession of Schedule II narcotics, including heroin, meth and cocaine.

In addition to the referendum and initiative process, Oregon has previously led the way on officeholder recall, compulsory school attendance, public beaches, scenic waterways, bottle deposits, urban growth boundaries, vote by mail, assisted suicide and both decriminalization and legalization of marijuana. But we don’t feel it’s ready to downgrade the penalty for possession of narcotics from Class A misdemeanor to Schedule E violation — traffic ticket level.

A case can be made for decriminalizing possession, while retaining stiff criminal penalties for manufacture, distribution and sale. The central point is this:
The public would be best-served by a system sending users into treatment and pushers into prison. Cutting the user base would free prison space, reduce the drug market and deter drug-associated property crime.

Officers would still be free to bring criminal charges against people caught with amounts above the user level, or with baggies, scales, precursor chemicals and other items associated with commercial trade. And to fund treatment, the measure would  funnel marijuana tax revenue and prison savings into expanded addiction treatment and recovery efforts.

However, statewide decriminalization has never been tested. And it seems a radical, counterintuitive approach on its face.

We think it would be wiser to test this theory in smaller, more tightly controlled venues first. Assuming results were positive, that could lay the groundwork for an educational initiative introducing the concept more broadly.

Measure 107: We are eager advocates of stricter limits, better disclosure and tighter regulations on campaign spending. We are tired of our state of firsts being the only one of 50 still resisting campaign finance limits.

This measure would not reinstate the tough reform measure approved by voters in 2002. We would be much happier if it did.

However, it would authorize enactment of new measures on the city, county and state levels, within constitutional limits.

Measure 108: Ingestion of nicotine via cigarettes, cigars and e-cigarettes is a costly social ill, both for the user and the rest of us. So we have no problem seeing state taxing power used to deter use and help fund prevention.

Unfortunately, this measure would transfer 90 percent of the new money into unrestricted funding of public health. We also question the magnitude, which would raise the price to $3.30 a pack for cigarettes and 65 percent of the wholesale price for cigars and e-cigarettes.

However, it would put the e-cigarettes favored by the youth segment on the same footing as traditional tobacco products, vital to stemming burgeoning youth use. And the overall goal is commendable.

Measure 109: Local physician Scott Gibson recently authored a Viewpoints cover piece on use of microdoses of hallucinogenic drugs in the clinical treatment of mental illness.

This measure would legalize using one of those drugs, mushroom-derived psilicybin, by mental health professionals in supervised clinical settings. This narrow controlled experiment strikes us as justified.


Don Dix

M 108 -- If 90% of of collections don't go directly into prevention, then it only becomes another blank check, which possibly is the intent in the first place.

Oregon's government has been on a 30 year, never-ending search for any way to tax something. This is nothing different.


The fact they say the flavors attract children is ridiculous. They say its geared FOR our kids. I'm a grown adult and LOVE the cotton candy flavor anything!!! What about cotton candy flavored vodka? Its up to the parents to prevent their children from getting their hands on the vapes OR vodka!!!


Measure 110 is a bad idea all around and what is additionally troubling is the money from outside of Oregon that is trying to dictate to the Beaver State how it views and deals with hardcore drugs like meth and heroin. I think we are better served if billionaire globalists like George Soros and Mark Zuckerberg spent their money elsewhere, like addressing poverty, homelessness and feeding the hungry rather than trying to make Oregon a safe harbor for those that want to do such hardcore drugs as meth and heroin are, without much of a penalty. A $100 fine is laughable when we consider the current way we punish those that abuse themselves and it is indefensible as a viable alternative, as it does not mandate treatment, but merely extends the offer of it to offending parties at the expense of other vital agencies. Measure 110 has no original revenue stream and will only be re-appropriating funds collected from Oregon's marijuana industry and causing public schools, public safety, and a host of other essential programs to be underfunded or just done away with. Can Oregon afford that?



myopinion: You have failed to understand that the problem so many kids have these days is due to their parents either [1] do not know how to proactively parent their children or worse yet - [2] do not care enough to even try. If "It Takes A Village"... then why are we abrogating our duties as citizens and neighbors in your model?

As progressive as Oregon is these days, we still cannot ignore the facts. Kids make choices and they also drink and do drugs. The cigarette manufacturers started using inappropriate flavor enhancers a long time ago in order to lure kids into a very nasty, unsafe habit of smoking tobacco and the alcohol manufacturers have followed suit. Surely you can see how something as innocuous as cotton candy vodka could be a real lure to children that want to act grown up even though their pallets have not matured?

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