Democratic-run Portland, Oregon, has become an “open-air drug market,” and overdose deaths have skyrocketed 41% since the state decriminalized hard drugs, according to a Daily Mail report. Photos published by the Mail show people on the city streets passed out in broad daylight and injecting drugs.
Oregon decriminalized personal-use amounts of LSD, oxycodone, heroin, and methamphetamine, as well as other drugs after a 2020 ballot measure was passed. Since the passage of the measure, anyone found possessing hard drugs is only issued a maximum fine of $100, which can be waived if the individual calls a hotline to receive a health assessment.
The state’s program was touted as a way to establish and then fund addiction recovery centers as a jail time alternative — tax revenue amounting to millions of dollars brought in to be used for treatment from the marijuana industry.
In the first year of the new law, 1,885 people were issued tickets for personal possession. However, only 91, or about 1%, phoned nonprofit hotline operator Lines for Life. Recently, officials said they underestimated the amount it would take to distribute the nearly $300 million funds the program had collected. So far, only $40 million has been spent.
“So clearly, if we were to do it over again, I would have asked for many more staff much quicker in the process,” said Oregon’s behavioral health director, Steve Allen. “We were just under-resourced to be able to support this effort, underestimated the work that was involved in supporting something that looked like this, and partly we didn’t fully understand it until we were in the middle of it.”
Statewide overdose deaths also hit a record high in 2021 at 1,069. The increase was 41% over the previous year before the initiative was implemented. A commission that was formed to review the structure of Portland’s government voted by a supermajority to send a broad slate of reforms to voters in November amid rising dissatisfaction with the current leadership structure and livability issues, according to an Associated Press report.
Drug use visible and rampant on city streets
Homelessness, rising housing costs, and crime were listed as issues in the Daily Mail report, while open-air drug use was not. However, methamphetamine, fentanyl, and heroin are readily visible and running rampant on Portland streets, with city police officers driving by homeless addicts purchasing and using the hard drugs.
Signs of drug addiction are not limited to Portland and are increasing throughout the state, according to sources in law enforcement. Oregon currently ranks second-highest among all 50 states, with almost one in five adults addicted.
The new law made possession of substances no greater than a Class E violation. A drug possession violation is considered the equivalent of a traffic ticket.