Guest column: Measure 110 would save money and lives

October 9, 2020

With all that’s going on, it’s particularly important that we spend tax money responsibly. That’s one reason I am strongly supporting Measure 110.

This measure establishes a health-based approach to drug addiction that is humane by expanding access to treatment and recovery services and decriminalizing drug possession. People no longer will be arrested and put in jail simply for possession of small amounts of drugs. Instead, they will be connected to the right treatment or recovery services, including housing assistance, to help them get their lives on track.

We need this change now: Oregon ranks nearly last in access to drug treatment services, and one to two Oregonians die of drug overdoses every day.

Furthermore, Measure 110 will save money. It’s expensive to arrest, adjudicate, incarcerate and supervise someone in a misdemeanor drug possession case. According to ECONorthwest, it can cost as much as $35,217 per person per year. Treatment generally costs a fraction of that amount.

Why not just shrug off the law enforcement expenses? Because low-level drug possession is one of the most common reasons for arrest in Oregon. About 8,900 Oregonians are arrested every year in cases where simple drug possession is the most serious offense — the equivalent of one arrest per hour. In total, these arrests cost us about $59 million a year, according to ECONorthwest.

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