Soon after Oregon became the first state to decriminalize all drugs, Officer Jose Alvarez stopped arresting people for possession and began giving out tickets with the number for a rehab helpline.
Most of the people smoking fentanyl or meth on this city’s streets balled them up and tossed them onto the ground.
“Those tickets frankly seemed like a waste of time,” said Alvarez, who stopped issuing them a few months after the law went into effect.
Nearly three years into an experiment that proponents hoped would spark a nationwide relaxation of drug laws, many in Oregon have turned against the decriminalization initiative known as Measure 110, which passed with 58% support in 2020.
People sprawled on sidewalks and using fentanyl with no fear of consequence have become a common sight in cities such as Eugene and Portland. Business owners and local leaders are upset, but so are liberal voters who hoped decriminalization would lead to more people getting help. In reality, few drug users are taking advantage of new state-funded rehabilitation programs.