Oregon urged to rethink liberal drug laws to tackle ‘addiction crisis’

The Governor of Oregon has called for a state-wide ban on the use of hard drugs in public amid “epidemics of fentanyl and rising crime”.

Governor Tina Kotek, Co-Chair of Portland City Task Force, urged State Congress to amend the law and restore police powers to prosecute those deemed to be drug dealers based on the amount of drugs they possess. The group also recommended that the City of Portland – the State capital – declare a 90-day “fentanyl emergency”.

Since Oregon decriminalised the possession of hard drugs in 2020, users with small quantities of drugs such as fentanyl and heroin have been able to escape prosecution.


Kotek stated: “When it comes to open-air drug use, nobody wants to see that. We need different tools to send the message that that is not acceptable behaviour.”

Portland City Council has already agreed to ban public drug use, but the measure can only come into effect if the state’s law is amended.

According to the Task Force’s Livable Neighborhoods Committee, the number of calls reporting drug overdose in Multnomah County has doubled since January 2022. Of those, 36 per cent were made in Portland’s Central City.

The Community Safety Committee, also part of the Task Force, reported: “Open air substance use in the Central City has reached levels never before encountered and the resources available to help those who need it most are severely limited. Moreover, the introduction of fentanyl into the drug supply has exacerbated the addiction/overdose crisis”.


Earlier this year, the UK Government shot down the SNP’s push to decriminalise all drugs for personal use.

Under the Scottish Government’s proposals, addicts would no longer be criminalised for possessing Class A drugs such as cocaine or heroin unless they intend to supply it to others. The proposals, which repeat calls made by the Scottish Government’s Drugs Deaths Taskforce in 2021, urged the UK Government to devolve powers on drugs legislation or change the law itself.

In September, Glasgow officials approved the introduction of a drug room where addicts can inject themselves without fear of arrest. Once open, it will be the first prosecution-free drug zone in the UK.

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