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Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek signs law recriminalizing drug possession

Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek signed a law Monday reimposing criminal penalties for drug possession amid soaring overdose deaths. File Photo by Pat Benic/UPI
Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek signed a law Monday reimposing criminal penalties for drug possession amid soaring overdose deaths. File Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo

April 2 (UPI) -- Amid soaring deaths attributed to fentanyl, Oregon has reintroduced criminal penalties for drug possession.

Gov. Tina Kotek signed the law Monday, reversing the 3-year-old Measure 110, which had decriminalized small amounts of certain hard drugs like cocaine, meth and heroin. Measure 110 was approved by voters in 2020 and went into effect in 2021.

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In March, Oregon's State Senate voted 21-8 to reverse it amid an crisis of overdoses driven by fentanyl. The highly addictive synthetic opioid can be 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.

In January, local officials declared a state of emergency in downtown Portland due to overdose visits to hospital emergency departments, as well as deaths. The Portland Police Department saw a 75% increase in notifications of overdose deaths in 2023 over a year prior.

Kotek said the new law aims to empower law enforcement to persuade people to enter treatment programs.

"The bill represents a package that encourages treatment first, while balancing the need for accountability," Kotek said in a letter to State Senate President Rob Wagner and State House Speaker Julie Fahey.

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