SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The Oregon Secretary of State’s office confirmed on its website that the Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act has enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot, the measure's backers announced Wednesday.
“Despite the quarantine, more than 160,000 Oregonians signed on to this petition to establish a more humane and effective approach to drug addiction,” said Janie Gullickson, who is a chief petitioner, in long-term recovery, and the executive director of the Mental Health and Addiction Association of Oregon. “This initiative will save lives, and we urgently need it right now because the pandemic has exacerbated Oregon’s addiction epidemic.”
If approved in November, the measure would expand access around the state to drug addiction treatment and recovery services, paid for with a portion of taxes from legal marijuana sales.
About one in 10 adults in Oregon need treatment for substance use disorder but have not received it, according to the federal government.
In addition, the measure decriminalizes low-level drug possession. It does not legalize drugs.
About 8,900 Oregonians are arrested every year in cases where simple drug possession is the most serious offense, according to the latest numbers from the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission. That’s more than one arrest an hour, and Black and Indigenous Oregonians are disproportionately targeted.
“Oregon law enforcement need to stop making these kinds of arrests, targeting our communities, and ruining lives by giving people criminal records,” said Kayse Jama, executive director of Unite Oregon, a nonprofit that advocates for racial justice . “The need for this measure is more urgent right now more than ever, because jails and prisons have turned into contagion hotspots during the pandemic.”
The More Treatment campaign has been endorsed by 60 organizations, including the NAACP of Eugene, the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, the Urban League of Portland, the Alano Club, and Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, plus several high-profile supporters, including two current district attorneys (one of them Deschutes County DA John Hummel) and two former US attorneys for the state of Oregon.
Hummel's statement on their website: “Continuing to criminalize addiction is wrong and ineffective. In order to create safe communities, people need to feel comfortable asking for help when they need it. But when we make addiction a crime, people often feel too afraid to seek the help they need, which in turn makes our communities less safe. This initiative creates the change needed to empower those struggling with addictions to reach out for help, and ensures that when they do, help will be available.”
The campaign said it does not face any organized opposition.
“But what we’re up against,” said campaign manager Peter Zuckerman, “is more than 50 years of misinformation and stereotypes from the War on Drugs.”