Prosecutor adopts drug decriminalization measure early
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt in Portland said Thursday he isn’t waiting until February to implement a policy that will decriminalize possession of all drugs in personal use amounts.
Schmidt’s office said it will immediately start treating drug possession cases exempt from prosecution under Measure 110 as a public health matter, rather than a criminal one, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported. Oregonians passed the measure in November.
“Past punitive drug policies and laws resulted in over-policing of diverse communities, heavy reliance on correctional facilities and a failure to promote public safety and health,” Schmidt said in a statement. “It’s time to move beyond these failed practices, expand access to treatment and focus our limited law enforcement resources to target high-level, commercial drug offenses.”
The district attorney cited overwhelming support for the measure — with more than 74% of Multnomah County voters approving it — as reason for his early adoption.
Schmidt was elected as a progressive district attorney by an overwhelming majority of Portlanders in May and took office this summer when outgoing District Attorney Rod Underhill retired early.
Schmidt faced criticism from some conservatives for a similarly sweeping policy change in August when he announced that he wouldn’t pursue criminal charges against protesters unless police demonstrated clear evidence they were committing violent crimes, rather than resisting arrest.