The new bill also intends to reduce racial profiling by law enforcement agencies.
H.B. 2355 recently passed both the House and Senate, decriminalizing six hard drugs including cocaine, meth, oxycodone, heroin, LSD and MDMA. The Oregon bill reduces possession of these illegal drugs from felony to misdemeanor, when the defendant has no prior drug convictions.
Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said in a statement issued July 7th, “[The bill] provides for the reduction of penalties for lower level drug offenders. It also reduces the maximum penalty for Class A misdemeanors by one day to avoid mandatory deportation for misdemeanants.”
The bill is expected to help manage opioid addiction by moving towards treatment rather than incarceration. As Rep. Mitch Greenlick (D., Portland) said to the Lund Report, “We’ve got to treat people, not put them in jail. It would be like putting them in the state penitentiary for having diabetes… This is a chronic brain disorder and it needs to be treated this way.”
Law enforcement agencies have been working alongside lawmakers to address the opioid epidemic, which has hit Portland especially hard, where homelessness is also a major problem.
Kevin Campbell, from Oregon Association Chiefs of Police expressed in a letter supporting the bill, “Too often, individuals with addiction issues find their way to the doorstep of the criminal justice system when they are arrested for possession of a controlled substance.”
Campbell went on to say, “Unfortunately, felony convictions in these cases also include unintended and collateral consequences including barriers to housing and employment and a disparate impact on minority communities.”
The bill also gives law enforcement departments, universities, and tribal governments specific guidelines and requirements in order to reduce racial profiling given a person “real or perceived age, race, ethnicity, color, national origin, language, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, political affiliation, religion, homelessness or disability, unless the agency or officer is acting on a suspect description or information related to an identified or suspected violation of a provision of law.”
Police will also be required to have mechanisms for people to file complaints of racial profiling. Additionally, the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training is expected to enforce an educational program regarding drug abuse.
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