Oregon, First State To Decriminalize Drug Use, Declares State Of Emergency In Portland Over Fentanyl
PORTLAND, OR - AUGUST 13: Wildfire smoke lingers over Downton, keeping heatwave temperatures relatively low, on August 13, 2021 in Portland, Oregon. As temperatures climb across the nation, nearly 200 million Americans are under some level of heat advisory.
Credit: Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images.

The Democrat governor of Oregon — the first state in the nation to decriminalize drug use in 2020—  has declared a 90-day state of emergency in Portland because of the magnitude of the fentanyl problem there.

Governor Tina Kotek, Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson, and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler each declared an emergency.

“Development of a system to efficiently track and coordinate existing resources to assist people impacted by fentanyl use should be completed in not more than 90 days,” Kotek wrote in her declaration, adding:

A command center will be stood up in the central city where state, county and city employees will convene to coordinate strategies and response efforts. The Command Center will serve to refocus existing resources. It will also share and publicly report data on the impacts of fentanyl in downtown, use data to identify and respond to acute needs and gaps in service, identify any specific resources necessary to address gaps, and establish a system to coordinate that can be sustained beyond the 90-day startup period. 

Oregon passed Measure 110 in 2020. “We’ve had three years of this law that has not delivered on the promise that voters thought they were getting,” Washington County district attorney Kevin Barton stated.

According to CBS News, overdoses in the state have continued to rise since 2020.

“This is a crisis that has been developing for decades,” Haven Wheelock, the harm reduction manager of the medical and youth care nonprofit center Outside In, stated. “And if this is what it’s going to take to get the attention and the care and the funding and the coordination that this tragic issue deserves, then I’m going to remain hopeful about that.”

Jesse Cornett, the policy director for the recovery organization Oregon Recovers, said, “If you talk to any police officer in the metro area, in Portland specifically, they don’t even have anywhere to take anyone that’s in the crisis right now. So there are some immediate first steps including a sobering center that should be taken.”

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