Sen. David Brock Smith: Measure 110 has failed us all

By Oregon State Senator David Brock Smith,

It’s true that overdoses, primarily driven by the rise of fentanyl, is a nationwide concern. But in Oregon, it’s made worse by Measure 110, which decriminalized hard drugs.

Over the summer, national news – from Atlantic Magazine, the New York TimesEconomist, and more – and outlets have begun to notice how Measure 110 is handicapping our fight against the drug crisis.

Law enforcement understands that M110 has been a failure. 64% of Oregonians support repealing drug decriminalization. It seems like everyone understands the catastrophic failure of M110 except the political elites in charge of our policy.

That’s why Governor Tina Kotek stacked the Portland Central City Task Force with political elites, including a vocal Defund the Police activist, and not a single member from the law enforcement community was included. The Task Force is supposedly going to offer recommendations on how to solve Portland’s homelessness and drug problems while taking no input from the public.

There is little doubt in Oregonians’ minds that Measure 110 significantly contributes to Portland’s issues. But given the pushback from liberal politicians in Salem to a recently announced effort to roll back M110’s decriminalization, it’s hard to see the Task Force offering any meaningful solutions.

After the Task Force’s first meeting, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler made public his request from the state for nearly 100 State Troopers to help Portland solve its crime problem. He also is requesting federal law enforcement reinforcements.

Let’s rewind the clock nearly 3 years ago when the same Ted Wheeler defunded his own Portland Police Bureau while also rejecting federal law enforcement help to quell the dangerous 2020 riots. Late is better than never, I suppose.

This all comes after it came to light that the person in charge of overseeing Measure 110’s implementation has no prior government or drug treatment experience, was on medical leave for 11 months before quitting, and was sanctioned by the Board of Naturopathic Medicine for not following opioid prescription guidance.

Oregonians passed Ballot Measure 110 with the idea that it would reduce drug abuse. It has only made it worse to the point where we rank dead last in the nation for drug treatment. They are right to have buyer’s remorse because those in charge of implementing such a sweeping change have totally screwed it up. It’s a predictable result when those in charge want to hand out foilpipes, and needles as their primary “treatment” method. Our goal should be to get people off of drugs, not enable their use.

Oregon Republicans offered several alternatives aimed at this goal, including HB 2310, which Democrats stonewalled even debating. We introduced a tiered approach that would include escalating penalties for possessing hard drugs. None of these were ever brought up for discussion in the 2023 session.

The fundamental flaw of M110 is that it is all carrot and no stick. We need a different approach for those struggling with addiction and unable to make the best decisions for themselves. Until we get help for those who want it and accountability for those who don’t, don’t expect our drug and homelessness problems to improve.