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Linn County to tackle Ballot Measure 110 shortcomings

Oregon’s Ballot Measure 110, which reduced some drug possession charges from felonies to misdemeanors and offered counseling as an alternative to jail time, also created unintended consequences when it comes to dealing with juveniles, Commissioners Roger Nyquist and Will Tucker were told Tuesday morning, Nov. 22.

Linn County Juvenile Director Torri Linn said the law does not provide any differentiation between adults and juveniles, so it makes it difficult if not impossible to get services to young people when their drug offenses are in their early stages.

During the recent gubernatorial campaign, all three candidates said Measure 110 was not working and two – Republican Christine Drazan and independent Betsy Johnson – wanted to see it repealed. Incoming Gov. Tina Kotek said she wants to keep it in place, but with fixes. 

Ballot Measure 110 provides funding for such things as subsidizing housing for drug offenders or needle exchanges, but the measures are directed at people who are well into addictions, not early on like teenagers, Lynn said.

Oregon voters passed Ballot Measure 110 by 58 percent to 42 percent in November 2020. It decriminalized possession of consumption amounts of cocaine and heroin among other hard drugs. The new law went into effect in February 2021.

Lynn pointed out that teenagers can be charged with Minor In Possession if found with alcohol, but not if they have cocaine or heroin on them. 

Both Nyquist and Tucker – who was participating by telephone – voiced strong concerns about the new law, seeing it as flawed and unsuccessful in decreasing drug use statewide. Commissioner Sprenger did not attend Tuesday’s meeting.

The commissioners plan to engage members of the Legislature addressing several key issues, especially on how the new law is affecting juvenile offenders and the county’s ability to help them early on.

Nyquist said, “We will go full-court press on this if we have to.”

“At the very least, they need to address the MIP discrepancy issue, a kid getting an MIP for alcohol but not hard drugs” Nyquist said. “It should include federal Class I drugs that the state just legalized.”

Commissioner Tucker said he is, “Adamantly against Measure 110.

“There is no stick and no carrot,” Tucker added.

He said Oregon voters had only one choice to deal with a “horrible problem” when the measure was on the ballot.

Nyquist said he supports the will of the voters, but he emphasized the measure is filled with gaping holes.

In other business, the commissioners:

• Approved an additional $8,427 for the Mill City Downtown Revitalization Project, to install a new storm sewer pipe that was in conflict with an existing waterline.

• Approved the purchase of a new Chevrolet service truck from Power Auto for the Road Department for $63,712.

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