It appears increasingly likely that when Oregon voters go to the polls in November, they will consider an initiative to use state marijuana tax revenue to expand the availability of substance use treatment and recovery support services.
Backers of the Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act announced last week that they had already collected a total number of signatures well in excess of the 112,020 needed to qualify for the fall ballot. They also have said they will continue to collect additional signatures. Leaders with the Mental Health and Addiction Association of Oregon and the advocacy arm of the Drug Policy Alliance are the main petitioners for the initiative.
If approved, the act would use an estimated $100 million in existing tax revenue from the state's legal marijuana industry to expand treatment, recovery support, housing and harm reduction services. According to federal data, Oregon has the nation's highest percentage of people who need substance use treatment and cannot access services.
The initiative also would reclassify lower-level drug possession offenses from a criminal misdemeanor to a civil infraction, which proponents say will encourage affected individuals to pursue a voluntary health assessment.
“Oregonians are dying every day because they can't access treatment. And in the meantime, if they are caught with drugs, they are criminalized, which only creates further barriers to accessing treatment and recovery,” Janie Gullickson, executive director of the Mental Health and Addiction Association of Oregon, said in a news release from Drug Policy Action. “Oregon can do better.”
Among the other organizations that have endorsed the initiative are the American Civil Liberties Union, the Harm Reduction Coalition and the Law Enforcement Action Partnership.