Friday, 8 September 2023

Portland City Council Passes Ban On Hard Drug Use On Public Property, But State Must Approve

 The Portland City Council passed a ban on using hard drugs on public property in a sign of how fed up the city is with rampant open-air drug use polluting its streets.

Oregon’s state legislature would have to approve Portland’s ban, however, meaning the state would have to reverse a recent decision to decriminalize hard drug use.

The City Council voted unanimously 5-0 on Wednesday to ban the use of hard drugs like fentanyl, heroin, and meth on public property.

The emergency ordinance also attaches criminal penalties to drug use on public property, namely up to six months in jail or a $500 fine.

“These are necessary, common-sense steps to disrupt debilitating drug use on the streets of Portland that does deep damage to our city’s livability, overwhelms our emergency response system and destroys lives,” Commissioner Rene Gonzalez said.

For the ban to go into effect, Oregon state lawmakers would have to pass a law allowing cities to crack down on public drug use.

In 2020, Oregon voters approved by 58% a ballot measure that decriminalized public drug use, a decision most voters now say they regret, according to one survey.

Measure 110, which took effect in early 2021, decriminalized the possession of small amounts of hard drugs including the increasingly popular fentanyl, heroin, and meth. The law made possession punishable only by a maximum fine of $100.


Two years later, more than 6 in 10 voters said they think decriminalization has made drug addiction, homelessness, and crime worse in Oregon, according to a survey from DMH Research. A combined 63% said they “strongly” supported or would be “somewhat” interested in once again criminalizing hard drugs.

Mayor Ted Wheeler, a Democrat, emphasized the urgency of Portland’s drug addiction crisis at Wednesday’s council meeting.

“The bottom line is this: Week by week the situation is getting worse,” the mayor said. “We have to focus with urgency to save lives and livelihoods.”

Fatal overdoses have skyrocketed in the Portland area in recent years.

Last year, fentanyl deaths alone hit a record 209 deaths in Multnomah County, which includes Portland, the Oregonian reported. Between 2018 and last year, fatal overdoses from opioids increased fivefold.

So far this year, Portland police are investigating more than 100 suspected drug overdose deaths, according to the mayor.

Almost every resident who spoke at the City Council meeting voiced their support for the city’s ban on public use of hard drugs, the Oregonian reported.

Meanwhile, beer and marijuana remain illegal to consume on public property in Portland, such as on sidewalks or in city parks.

The City Council also unanimously approved a resolution that involves requesting changes to state law to align the rules on public consumption of drugs “with existing regulations governing alcohol and cannabis.”

Meanwhile, harrowing scenes of open-air drug use and homelessness continued to come out of Portland, tarnishing the once-thriving city’s image and rebranding it as decrepit and unsafe.

Other California cities have struggled with homelessness, drug use, and rising crime as well. In San Francisco, businesses have abandoned the downtown area as open-air drug use has become more prevalent in the area.

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