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Oregon becomes 1st state to decriminalize low-level drug possession

In November, Oregonians voted to approve a measure that shifts the state’s focus on expanding access to treatment and recovery for drug addicts.

SALEM, Ore. — In November, Oregon became the first state in the nation to decriminalize possession of illegal drugs for personal use. The new law went into effect on Monday.

The aim of the new law is to shift Oregon’s focus from criminal punishment for low-level possession to expanding access to treatment and recovery.

The new state law does not legalize drugs, which is an important distinction.

A person caught with a small amount of drugs, including Schedule I drugs like heroin and LSD, will face “no more than a Class E violation.” That person will then face a $100 fine, which may be waived if the person seeks treatment.

WATCH: Oregon decriminalizes low-level drug possession: What is a small amount?

What is a 'small amount'?

Source: Oregon Voters' Guide

  • Heroin: 1 gram or less
  • Cocaine: 2 grams or less
  • Meth: 2 grams or less
  • MDMA: Less than 1 gram of 5 pills
  • LSD: Less than 40 'user units'
  • Methadone: Less than 40 'user units'
  • Oxycodone: Less than 40 pills
  • Psilocybin: Less than 12 grams

People with either a felony criminal conviction or two or more past drug convictions may face more serious penalties. Laws surrounding the sale or possession of large quantities of drugs remain unchanged.

RELATED: Here are new laws that go into effect in Oregon and Portland in 2021

The purpose of the new law is to adopt a health-based approach to the state’s drug crisis by making treatment and recovery services available to anyone who needs and wants access to those services.

In order to make this happen, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) was tasked with establishing a temporary addiction recovery center by Feb. 1, which will assess clients' treatment needs over the phone. Addiction recovery centers will open within coordinated care organizations statewide by Oct. 1 and phone services will be discontinued.

The centers will be required to assess clients’ treatment needs 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The program to expand treatment services will be funded in part by the state’s marijuana tax and savings from reduced arrests, incarceration and supervision.

Supporters say people suffering from addiction are more effectively treated with health care services rather than with criminal punishments.

Opponents, including Oregon Recovers and the Oregon Council for Behavioral Health, argued the measure fails to bring in new revenue, which they believe is essential to tackle addiction in Oregon.

The other three statewide measures on the ballot also passed:

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