In November 2020, Oregon passed Measure 110, decriminalising non-commercial drug possession. The state also significantly increased funding for recovery and harm reduction programmes. It sounded like a great plan to voters, so it passed with 60 per cent approval.
What has occurred though over the last three years is nothing short of tragic. When Measure 110 passed, fentanyl was starting to take over our streets. For homeless addicts it began as a general curiosity, which quickly devolved into the widespread use of the deadliest drug in history. Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin, and with two major competing cartels (China and Mexico), the price has now dropped to an all-time low. Three years ago, a blue fentanyl pill cost about six to seven dollars. That has now dropped to one to two dollars. Due to its addictive properties, low cost, and the fact that almost all other street drugs are laced with it, nearly all street-level addicts are using fentanyl – whether they want to or not. This is what has turned the city of Portland into the largest open-air drug zone in state history.
As for the promised recovery programmes, it took 34 months for the first medical detox facility to open with Measure 110 money, and in that time, we have had a record number of overdoses and deaths that have increased each year since the measure passed.
Despite the lack of new infrastructure, there have been empty beds in these detox facilities from day one, because Portland does not have enough outreach teams to find people to fill them. I have talked to and interviewed hundreds of homeless people in the last year, and over 90 per cent tell me they have never been approached by an outreach worker offering services. So