By Taxpayers Association of Oregon
This 6/28/23 Lars Larson interview of former District Attorney from Clatsop County showcases why police can’t make arrests.
We know the article is long, but it reveals problems rarely talked about in the media.
Lars Larson: As you know, in both Oregon and Washington, the voters in one state, the Supreme Court in the other state, Washington state, decided to do away with the laws and effectively make hard drugs legal. Now, I’ve complained about that. Some of you’ve heard some terribly tragic stories about people overdosing and people dying. People have been dying by the hundreds, literally the hundreds in Oregon, Washington, because of drug overdoses. And finally, the legislature in Washington state said, okay, we’ll make hard drugs, a misdemeanor again, a gross misdemeanor. But it’s really not going to do much good. And in Oregon, there’s House Bill 2513. And I wanted to ask our friend Josh Marquis, the former district attorney of Clatsop County, because he knows this subject well. Is it going to do any good and is there by some bizarre set of circumstances, a way in which the new drug law will actually make the problem even worse?
Josh Marquis: Keeping in mind, as someone as a prosecutor for 30 years, I think the last time we actually sent someone to prison for possessing drugs was sometime in the 1980s. So, part of the thing is important is the drug munch, the group, the various calls itself the Harm Reduction Coalition or the Soros based Drug Policy Institute, which gave us 110. They like to claim that basically we in Oregon were just throwing people in prison where they got no treatment. And now a new day is gone dawned where addicts are free to go and seek the treatment they so desperately need. Except that almost all of us have had some dealings with addicts in our lives, our families, or somebody we know well. And we know that people in the depths of drug addiction don’t go and seek treatment. That’s not how it works. So, the law that you’re talking about is pure window dressing. What it does is it creates a crime that I don’t I’m not even sure it needs to be there. But it says a mix of drugs of a gram or greater, including the drug fentanyl. Now fentanyl. Most people’s experience with it is only going to have been in surgery suites where their doctor gave them probably a literally a 10th of a milligram as part of, you know, sawing into their bones or doing some pretty dramatic surgery. It’s not a drug we normally see on the street, but as you know, it is the synthetic drug that the cartels are replacing heroin with. It’s incredibly dangerous. The safety margin is nonexistent. So, the claim of the Democrats in the legislature is, oh, we’ve finally seen, after three years of the measure 110, that we need to plug this hole and we’ve got a way to do it. It’s completely meaningless because, A, it’s still a misdemeanor. B, there’s still no incentive for people to want to submit to treatment because as you point out in Seattle, in Washington State, they made it a gross misdemeanor. The city of Seattle said, nah, we’re not even interested in that. And you can you can call it anything you want. You can call it late for dinner. If it’s not being enforced by the by the police, the uniformed officers, and it’s not being treated in a courtroom as a hey, young man, you either need to go to this. There’s this closed, locked door treatment plan or you’re going to jail. And if we can’t have those conversations, we’re going to keep losing the war.
Larson: There’s also an enforcement problem, isn’t there? If they say, well, we’re going to go after certain kinds of drugs, you pointed out that they effectively legalized fentanyl because when they said possession of what they call a personal use quantity, 40 tabs of oxycodone, which is a lot of drugs, a gram of meth or heroin, that when the police officer pulls somebody over and he has some white powder in an envelope, he doesn’t know if the white powder is the effectively legalized cocaine or the effectively legalized heroin or the still illegal fentanyl. Does he? Does this change any of that? No.
Marquis: And it’s even worse because the cartels picked up really fast on Oregon’s idiotic law that allowed up to 40 oxycodone tablets. And so virtually all the fentanyl we see in Oregon shows up in the form of a blue gray tablet with an M stamped on one side and the other. It’s made to look like a pharmaceutical drug. It’s not. It’s completely bogus. And it contains anywhere from a gram to a hundred grams of fentanyl. By the way, the 100 grams is going to be fatal for almost everybody. But. But the problem and you just put your finger on it was, is the officer is limited to what they can articulate. And they pull up a car is stopped on the side of the road. The driver slumped over. He’s clearly, she’s clearly semi unconscious. There’s a needle in their arm and there’s a baggy of 25 gray blue pills and just screaming, you know, either oxy or more likely that, in fact, all the officer can do is say, well, I can give you a ticket or would you like the name of some place, cannot take him into custody, cannot call.
Larson: Because they haven’t committed a crime. Is that it? They haven’t. And until you’ve committed a crime, the officer can’t take you into custody. And he doesn’t have he or she doesn’t have any other way to say. And I search the rest of their vehicle because I found them with illegal drugs, because he found them with drugs that are still effectively legal.
Marquis: Infractions, well and also by making all the common drugs, heroin and methamphetamine, oxycodone, by making them in infractions, the other side said, well, they’re still illegal. Yeah, but we don’t under American law if it’s not a. Fine. The officers don’t have a right to then search further or even apply for a search warrant. So, there is a reason why. And it’s not the lack of interest that since 2020 there is no drug enforcement at the state and local level in Oregon. I mean, zero. What we do see is occasionally the Drug Enforcement Administration, sometimes with OSP officers working with them, will stop a car either northbound chock full of fentanyl or southbound truck full of money. That may be something front of me, but that’s not a good drug strategy. And all you’re doing is basically scraping some of the cream off the top.
Larson: By the way, let me ask you about something. So, the mayor of Portland last week said, this is so bad, the legislature won’t act. I’m going to act. And then at the last second, he folds up like a cheap suitcase and he says, okay, I’m not going to do it because they tell me I can’t make public consumption of illegal drugs, you know, illegal in the city of Portland. And I said to myself, you can’t smoke a cigarette or a cigar in most places in Portland. They’ll write you up for that. You can’t drink booze in public in in most of the cities of the Northwest. How is it that Ted Wheeler doesn’t think he has the authority to have an ordinance that says you can’t shoot heroin up in public?
Marquis: I can answer that pretty directly. And right next door, quickly, a real credit needs to be given to Ben Smith, the new county commissioner, because they’re considering making the law a county criminal law that says possession of small amounts of fentanyl and heroin is a crime. The difference and maybe Ted Wheeler, but, you know, Ted Wheeler is making this claim now because somebody, some lawyer has told him correctly the act of being intoxicated or the act of having consumed the drug cannot be a crime. That’s been the law in the United States for 30 years. It’s the possession of the drugs that is completely prosecutable.
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(Note: Interview includes minor edits for clarity)