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Oregon bill to recriminalize drug possession passes in committee

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(The Center Square) – The Oregon legislature’s Joint Committee on Addiction and Community Safety Response voted 10-2 to advance House Bill 4002 on Tuesday.

The bill would make possession of drugs a crime again in Oregon, reversing the 2020 voter-approved Measure 110, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.

The latest action means the bill could come up for a vote in the House. If the House approved the bill, it would go to the Senate. If the bill becomes law, most provisions would immediately take effect due to its emergency clause.

However, the criminal charge for drug possession would take effect on September 1, 2024, to provide the Department of Justice time to implement the law.

People openly using illegal drugs in public would face arrest and possibly jail time if the law takes effect.

Before Republicans and Democrats worked together on a compromise bill, the proposal would have made counties offer drug counseling instead of criminal charges via a deflection program. However, the compromise bill gives counties and police officers jurisdiction over whether or not they want to do that.

Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp, R-Bend, said local control was a key part of the deal.

“There are some counties who already have deflection programs that seem to be working, and we are happy to allow them to see if that actually continues to work or does work, but the counties that don’t want to do it won’t have to do it,” Knopp told KATU-TV. “The most important thing is our district attorneys, our sheriffs, our chiefs of police, and that coalition has been together on this with us throughout the negotiations.”

Public defenders oppose the deal because letting the counties offer treatment as an option means people could face charges without a public defender, according to the report.

However, state representative Jason Kropf, D-Bend, thinks the bill will help them by reducing their caseloads.

“Public defenders are concerned about the impacts this will have on the criminal justice system, and I share those concerns,” Kropf told KATU-TV. “We know we have a public defender crisis; we know we have a court system that is overtaxed. What we are trying to do is create pathways to not even have to go to court.”

Kropf also thinks most counties will opt for treatment rather than charges.

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