Kevin Morris 4m 1,080 #drugdecriminalization
The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
What Are the Workplace Challenges?
In February 2021, the Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act, known as Measure 110, went into effect in Oregon. This measure, dubbed Oregon’s drug decriminalization experiment, sparked lively debates on both sides of the argument for this experimental approach to dealing with drug addiction, especially as it relates to public safety. But now that Measure 110 has been in effect for almost two years, some of those questions have been answered, including what has or has not changed regarding drug use in the workplace. Here are some of the workplace challenges to know about, as well as some dispelled myths.
Farewell to Felonies
Probably one of the largest myths associated with Oregon’s new approach to drug possession in Measure 110 is the myth that drugs are entirely legal in Oregon now. While it is true that some of the mantras associated with Oregon’s new approach to drugs are “providing treatment instead of conviction,” this does not mean all of the state’s drug laws have been erased. Instead, Oregon’s new drug law has effectively reclassified the nature of drug possession, making some possessions a non-criminal offense and downgrading other possessions that used to be felonies to misdemeanors.
For example, possession of less than 1 gram of heroin or ecstasy (MDMA), less than 2 grams of methamphetamine or cocaine, and less than 40 pills of opioids like methadone or oxycodone are considered a non-criminal violation. These used to be offenses that resulted in an arrest and possible jail time. But now, it’s only a violation that results in either a fine of $100 or avoiding the fine by participating in a health assessment. Amounts in excess of these amounts used to be considered felonies, but these have now been reduced to misdemeanor charges.
What makes this especially important to Oregon’s job market is that it opens up the number of potential job candidates much more than in the days before Measure 110, especially in jobs that have more intensive background checks and security clearance. A job that may have been off the table for someone with a felony drug charge is now within reach if they were charged with the reduced misdemeanor classification after Measure 110 went into effect. This could serve as a positive gain from Measure 110 since it allows more opportunities for employers as well as employees.
Is Measure 110 Effective?
However, getting into the workplace because of Measure 110 is one thing. It is still another question as to how Measure 110 will help people stay sober and progress successfully in their careers. Some of the looming questions surrounding Oregon’s drug decriminalization approach concern whether Measure 110 makes drug addiction worse in Oregon. The idea of this bill was to make treatment options more readily available for people who felt legally threatened or financially incapable of seeking treatment. However, as of February 2022, one year after Measure 110 went into effect, few had obtained treatment with Measure 110 funding.
According to one report, only 136 people out of the hundreds of thousands in Oregon who need treatment have actually received treatment for substance use disorder (SUD). This has not stopped motivation for extending Measure 110, however. In September 2022, the Oversight and Accountability Council (OAC) approved a measure to extend grants through June 2025. The goal of this extension was to avoid interruptions in care for those seeking treatment during December 2023, when the current grants were set to expire. It is likely that this extension of coverage could be used as proof that Measure 110 is worth keeping around, but that remains to be seen.
Some Oregon police officers are concerned that Measure 110 has backfired; instead of providing direct access to treatment, it has led to the downfall of the criminal justice process and an increase in things like property crime. Workplaces are still free to maintain their drug-free workplace parameters, so it remains a myth that Measure 110 somehow allows people to use illicit substances with no consequences in the workplace.
However, the workplace repercussions for what employees do outside of work may not be something you used to read about in the paper, thanks to the decriminalization of these drugs.
Only Time Will Tell
On the one hand, this should make life easier for everyone; employees are no longer getting fired in Oregon due to the aftermath of their seemingly harmless felony charge of drug possession. This saves on paperwork, money, and time invested in current employees and the funding that some companies provide for employees living with drug addiction because of the money available in Measure 110.
However, has this really deterred drug use? So far, the number of drug treatment services provided to individuals has not increased in Oregon to a level that reflects the success of Measure 110. Drug addiction is a disease of the brain, which cannot be battled by getting rid of laws any more than it can by continuing to add more.
The issue at hand in Oregon is “Does removing the criminal offenses associated with drug use and possession actually lead to recovery?” The verdict is still out, but many people’s suspicions about the effectiveness of Measure 110 are beginning to come true. Unfortunately, with a social experiment like this, only time will tell the full impact Measure 110 has, even in workplace challenges.
Oregon Health Authority (n.d.). Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act (Measure 110). Retrieved https://www.oregon.gov/oha/hsd/amh/pages/measure110.aspx
KTVB CBS News 10. (2022 May 10). Policing Changes and Measure 110: Drugs Still Aren’t Legal. Retrieved https://ktvl.com/news/local/policing-changes-and-measure-110-is-the-problem-being-solved
Statesman Journal. (2021 January 31). Oregon’s New Drug Law Goes Into Effect Monday. Here’s What it Does. Retrieved https://www.statesmanjournal.com/story/news/2021/01/31/what-oregon-measure-110-drug-law-mean-decriminalize-drugs-cocaine-heroin-meth-oxy/4318668001/
Delphi Health Group. (n.d.).Oregon Drug Decriminalization 2020: Will This Make Addiction Problems Worse? https://delphihealthgroup.com/blog/oregon-drug-decriminalization/
OPB. (2022 February 14). Few obtain treatment in the first year of Oregon drug-decriminalization grants. Retrieved https://www.opb.org/article/2022/02/14/oregon-drug-decriminalization-measure-110-grants-treatment-recovery-services/
Fox News Oregon. (2022 July 15). Some in Local Law Enforcement Say Measure 110 is Backfiring. Retrieved https://www.kptv.com/2022/07/15/some-local-law-enforcement-say-measure-110-is-backfiring/
Oregon Department of Human Services. (2022 September 30). Measure 110 Oversight and Accountability Council to offer Measure 110 grant extensions through June 2025. Retrieved https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/ORDHS/bulletins/32fe61d#:~:text=The%20OAC%20approved%20a%20proposal,to%20expire%20in%20December%202023.
The Guardian. (2022 April 4). Oregon’s Bold Drug Decriminalization Sees Some Success- But Use Still Rising. Retrieved https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/apr/04/oregon-drugs-decriminalisation-ballot-measure-110
Delphi Health Group. (n.d.).Guide to Drug Addiction: Symptoms, Signs, and Treatment. https://delphihealthgroup.com/addiction/