The ACLU of Oregon has endorsed the Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act, or Initiative Petition 44 (IP 44). IP 44 significantly changes Oregon’s approach to drugs so more people get help, not arrested. The initiative does this by expanding access to treatment and recovery services, so anyone who wants help can get it. And it pays for expanded treatment and services with marijuana taxes. IP 44 also shifts us away from punishing people who are suffering from addiction by removing criminal penalties for low-level possession of all drugs, while incentivizing people to get treatment.
The problems with our current approach
Oregon’s current drug laws distort the priorities of law enforcement and are deeply inequitable, disproportionately targeting and impacting people of color and in poverty. Oregonians use drugs at about the same rate, regardless of the color of their skin. However, people of color are much more likely to be arrested, charged and convicted of drug crimes. People of color are also sentenced more harshly and forced to pay higher fines. Changing our approach to drugs can dramatically reduce these disparities.
Criminalizing drugs has serious impacts on Oregonians. About 8,700 people were arrested last year alone in cases where simple drug possession is the most serious offense. People with criminal records are prevented from getting housing, jobs, student loans, professional licenses and more.
Oregon ranks last in the country in access to drug addiction treatment for those who need it. The waitlists to get drug treatment can be too long, and in some rural counties, there is practically no treatment at all.
How IP 44 works
Funded by a portion of marijuana taxes, the Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act makes crucial changes to how addiction is treated in Oregon:
- It greatly expands access and funding to drug addiction treatment and services, reducing long wait lines and making those services available to all those who want and need them. Money will specifically go to treatment; peer support and recovery services; transitional, supportive and permanent housing; harm reduction interventions; and more.
- It addresses drugs through a health care approach, not criminal punishments. It reclassifies some simple misdemeanor drug possession offenses, so that Oregon addresses drugs in a more effective, cost-effective and humane way, centered on health care, not punishment.
- It incentivizes people to get treatment. People in simple possession cases will be fined rather than criminally charged, and they can avoid paying that fine if they get a health assessment at an Addiction Recovery Center, where they are connected to treatment.
- It establishes Addiction Recovery Centers. Anyone who wants treatment -- not just those who have been fined for drug possession -- can go to an Addiction Recovery Center. There, they will be assessed for treatment needs and connected to services.