Addiction & Overdose

Bloomberg Fellow Haven Wheelock Plays Key Role in Oregon's Decriminalization of Drug Possession

November 17, 2020

On November 3, Oregon passed Measure 110 and became the first state in the country to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of hard drugs, including heroin, LSD, and methamphetamine. The ballot measure reclassifies possession of personal-use amounts of these drugs as a civil violation, similar to a traffic offense; the penalty is a $100 fine or participation in a health assessment. The measure also funds addiction treatment, harm-reduction efforts, and other services for people with substance use disorders.

The Oregon Criminal Justice Commission estimated that, once the changes take effect on February 1, 2021, about 3,600 fewer Oregonians will be convicted of felony or misdemeanor possession—a reduction of 90%. The Commission projected that this reduction in convictions will have a ripple effect, decreasing the impacts of incarceration, which include difficulty finding employment and stable housing. The Commission also found that the measure would likely lead to a significant decrease in racial and ethnic disparities in both arrests and convictions.

Bloomberg Fellow Haven Wheelock was chief petitioner for the campaign to vote yes on Measure 110; Haven is the Drug Users Health Services Program Coordinator at Outside In, which provides health care and social services for marginalized people in and around Portland. In a campaign video, she shared, "I'm really excited about this measure. I'm excited to see that we're no longer going to be putting people in jail for symptoms of their disease."

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