SALEM — On Tuesday, Governor Kate Brown signed HB 2355 that decriminalizes personal use possession of meth, cocaine and heroin, along with other drugs.
The new law knocks what would have been a felony charge down to a misdemeanor.
This move is believed to open up treatment options for addicts, but as previously reported by The World, both the sheriff and Coos County District Attorney Paul Frasier suspect the opposite may happen in rural areas.
“This could take away the ability to make sure people get treatment or are monitored because this is no longer going to be a felony,” Zanni said in a previous interview.
The legislation initially came about after the 2016 Sentencing Report showed that African Americans are incarcerated at 5.6 times more than white offenders. African Americans make up 2 percent of the Oregon population, but represent over nine percent of state prison populations. They are also convicted of felony drug possession at more than double the rate of white offenders.
“So this decriminalization is attached to another bill addressing racial profiling, which was shown to be a big problem in metro areas like Multinomah County,” Frasier said in a previous interview. “But here, it is not a problem.”
Coos County Community Corrections Officer Mike Crim has been informed through his statewide meetings that drug possession misdemeanors are going to be funded and treated like felonies in order to continue recovery programs.
“I just think that the statutes that have been passed will make my job more difficult and do more harm than good,” Frasier said. “That's my fear.”
“While we still have much work ahead, HB 2355 represents an important step toward creating a more equitable justice system to better serve all Oregonians,” Brown said in an emailed statement to the Washington Post. “Addressing disparities that too often fall along racial and socioeconomic lines should not be political issues. Here in Oregon, we’re demonstrating that we can make meaningful progress to improve the lives of Oregonians by working together around our shared values.”