By Hope M. Smiley-McDonald, Peyton R. Attaway, Lynn D. Wenger, Kathryn Greenwell, Barrot H. Lambdin and Alex H. Kral
By passing Ballot Measure 110 (BM 110), Oregon became the first U.S. state to decriminalize noncommercial possession of drugs that are illegal under the Controlled Substances Act. This study examined the perceived impacts of BM 110 on law enforcement and Oregon communities.
Our team visited four geographically distinct Oregon counties in August 2022 (two urban, two rural). The qualitative study involved conducting 34 hour-long interviews with law enforcement, other criminal legal system personnel, and representatives from emergency medical services/fire and substance use treatment and harm reduction agencies. Interviewees were asked about their perceptions of BM 110’s effects on law enforcement, their communities, and agencies.
Law enforcement interviewees viewed BM 110 as a failure; they perceived it resulted in an erosion of their authority. They expressed frustration that they could not use drug possession as a “tool” for investigations to pursue and build cases, establish probable cause, and impose what they believed necessary for social order. Law enforcement personnel in all four counties indicated they routinely seized drugs and drug.