Oregon governor signs law recriminalizing drug possession

April 2, 2024

Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek (D) on Monday signed a law recriminalizing the possession of small amounts of drugs.

The law makes personal use possession a misdemeanor punishable with sentences of up to six months in jail. However, it also creates avenues for treatment instead of criminal penalties by encouraging law enforcement agencies to start programs that would move defendants toward addiction and mental health services.

Kotek said in a signing letter that “deep coordination” between courts, police, prosecutors, defense attorneys and local mental health providers is vital, adding that they are “necessary partners to achieve the vision for this legislation.”

In 2021, Oregon became the first state to decriminalize drug possession. However, the state has recently faced a large rise in overdose deaths and had the second-highest rate of substance abuse disorder in the U.S., according to a 2023 audit report.

Oregon state House Minority Leader Jeff Helfrich (R) said after Kotek signed the new law that it showed how his party “stood united and forced Democrats” to bring back criminal penalties.

The Associated Press contributed.