Why did Oregon recriminalize drug possession? Arrests resume in the Beaver State, along with a new treatment effort

 Oregon's experiment with drug decriminalization is over. Gov. Tina Kotek (D) on Monday approved a new law that recriminalizes the possession of small amounts of "hard drugs" — but also "expands funding for substance abuse treatment," Oregon Public Broadcasting said. The measure comes four years after Beaver State voters backed a ballot measure to end arrests for people found possessing cocaine, fentanyl, and methamphetamine in amounts meant for personal use. 

That 2020 vote was "celebrated as a groundbreaking step toward a compassionate approach to substance use disorders," said The Guardian. But Oregonians now say that step coincided with a "spiraling drug use" that accompanied an "epidemic of cheap, widely available" fentanyl, a rise in homelessness, and a shocking increase in overdose deaths. The state saw nearly 1,000 opiate overdose fatalities in 2022. "Oregon was a leader in this space," Haven Wheelock, a harm-reduction advocate, said of recriminalization. "It will set us back."

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