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Understanding Oregon Ballot Measure 110 Oregon’s “new” Drug Possession Law

On November 3, 2020, Oregon voters passed Ballot Measure 110, which decriminalized the possession of certain amounts of controlled substances. However, there is some confusion about what this means as far as current and future regulations of controlled substances. are some who are misunderstanding the effects of this measure, some believing that they can possess drugs as of November 4, 2020. This article is meant to help Oregonians understand what it means for Measure 110 to have passed.

First, Oregonians must understand that Measure 110 takes effect on February 1, 2021. This means that, under Oregon law, it is still unlawful to possess any quantity of controlled substances without a valid prescription. That law will continue until January 31, 2021. A misunderstanding as to the effective date, will not act as a defense to criminal charges. Also, this law does not have any impact on prior criminal convictions or pending criminal drug proceedings.

Second, the quantity of the illegal drugs matters in determining whether the amount possessed in a violation or remains a crime under Oregon law. Large quantities of drugs and delivery of drugs remains illegal under Measure 110. The amounts of drugs which can be possessed are generally considered “user quantities” of a given drug and is different for each controlled substance. By way of example, possession of more than 40 pills, tablets, or capsules of oxycodone is still a crime.

Third, possessing controlled substances in low quantities, whether under Schedule I, II, III, IV, or V, are now Class E Violations. This means the maximum penalty for drug possession is either a fine of $100, or a completed health assessment. The purpose of this reduction is to provide drug addicts the opportunity to receive drug treatment rather than receiving straight jail time. Though possession of these controlled substances will no longer be criminal, it is still illegal and does carry financial consequences and still carries significant negative consequences under federal law.

Fourth, possession of controlled substances in certain quantities remain illegal and punishable as a crime. Measure 110 moves some drug charges from Class B felonies to Class A misdemeanors. These include possessing:

  • 40 or more units of LSD;
  • 12 grams or more of psilocybin or psilocin;
  • 40 or more user units of methadone;
  • 40 or more pills, tablets, or capsules of oxycodone;
  • 1 gram or more of heroin;
  • 1 gram or more, or 5 or more pills, tablets, or capsules of ecstasy;
  • 2 grams or more of cocaine; or
  • 2 grams or more of methamphetamine.

Fifth, possession of a controlled substance remains a Class B felony if the possession is a commercial drug offense. There is a list of factors in ORS 475.900(b) that make possession of controlled substances a commercial drug offense. Though some of these factors are obvious, such as possessing large quantities of controlled substances, others are not quite as obvious, such as possessing $300.00 or more in cash.

Finally, possession of controlled substances without a prescription is still a crime under Federal law. Though it is unlikely that the federal government is going to prosecute individuals who merely possess “user quantities” of drugs, there are still significant federal consequences which will arise from possessing drugs, including marijuana. By way of example, if you have been cited for possession of a controlled substance, or have entered a DUII Diversion program due to the use of marijuana, you may be prohibited from purchasing a firearm under federal law.

The legal landscape and public opinion are changing when it comes to the enforcement of drug crimes. Our attorneys at Gunn & Gunn have years of experience working with clients charged with drug crimes, and we can help navigating this ever-changing landscape and ensure that you have the best defense possible. If you, or someone close to you, has been charged with a drug related offense, from PCS though Commercial Delivery, our attorneys stand ready to help. Give us a call!