Oregon Legislature Passes Bill to Defelonize Possession of Ecstasy, Heroin, Cocaine and Other Drugs

Legislation to defelonize the personal possession of several drugs has been passed through Oregon’s full legislature and sent to Governor Kate Brown for consideration.

The proposed law, House Bill 2355, “Reduces punishment for possession of certain controlled substances [including ecstasy, heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine] from felony to misdemeanor”. Possession would remain a felony if the defendant possesses a useable quantity of a controlled substance and one of four factors are in play: “1) The defendant has a prior felony conviction of any kind; 2) The defendant has two or more prior convictions for possessing a useable quantity of a controlled substance; 3) The offense is a commercial drug offense; or 4) The defendant possess more than specificed amount”.

The legislation also directs the Criminal Justice Commission to “study effect of reduction in possession penalties on criminal justice system, rates of recidivism and composition of convicted offenders”, and “Reduces maximum length of Class A misdemeanor offense to 364 days”, Under current law, possessing certain drugs can result in imprisonment of up to 10 years.

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Oregon Police Call for Drug Defelonization

DefelonizationIn a press release sent Monday the Oregon Association of Police Chiefs and the Oregon State Sheriff’s Association have jointly called for the personal possession of all drugs to be defelonized. This would mean that if a person is in possession of an illegal substance, as long as it’s not for distribution purposes, it would no longer be a felony charge, instead being reduced to a misdemeanor, a much lower penalty that carries a maximum prison sentence of one year, compared to a maximum sentence of 10 years.

The two organizations are calling for this change in part because felony drug charges “include unintended and collateral consequences including barriers to housing and employment and a disparate impact on minority communities.” They say that elected officials and prosecutors should craft “a more thoughtful approach to drug possession when it is the only crime committed”.

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