Portland/ Politics & Govt
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Published on June 21, 2024
Multnomah County Leadership Faces Criticism Over Drug Policy Decisions Ahead of House Bill 4002 ImplementationSource: Visitor7, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The shifting tides of drug policy in Multnomah County continue to ebb and flow as officials grapple with the implications and eventual implementation of House Bill 4002. With less than two months on the clock, MultCo Chair Jessica Vega Pederson has stirred the pot by hosting closed-door meetings to shape a deflection program meant to pivot away from arrests, without the requirement for treatment for drug users. The decision, largely formed in conversations with District Attorney Mike Schmidt, Portland's police chief, among others, has been met with unease from commissioners who feel detached from the process, according to KGW8.

Sharon Meieran claims that her fellow commissioners “have not been involved in the conversation at all”, a sentiment indicating an expanding rift in county leadership. According to KOIN 6, this concern echoes broader reservations about the direction of drug policy reform and a potential return to conditions akin to those preceding Measure 110, before the adjustments mandated by the incoming bill. Vega Pederson, albeit under scrutiny, has maintained that keeping commissioners in the loop "has been a priority."

Outside of the county's inner circle, the public's gaze intensifies as the reintroduction of criminal penalties for drug possession looms on the horizon. This reversion is set against the backdrop of a newly adopted deflection strategy aimed at diverting drug users from the criminal justice system. However, proponents who once championed the repeal of Measure 110 are voicing their discontent, fearing the county's latest move falls short of the more deliberate treatment pathway initially envisioned under the updated law.

In a recent correspondence to Vega Pederson and Schmidt, critics conveyed their "grave concerns about the policy direction Multnomah County is choosing," which was disclosed in a report by KGW 8. The chair and the district attorney have not yet commented on these criticisms, despite these voices insisting on a policy reevaluation. In this climate of urgency and, scrutinizing eyes, all gears must be set in motion by September 1st, when the new framework for addressing drug possession is expected to take full effect.