New drug law leads to recovery concerns

A spoon being heated for drug use (MGN Online)

Drug laws are loosening up across the country.

Bob Herried, outpatient clinical manager at Addiction Recovery Center in Medford says southern Oregon has a high rate of drug abuse problems.

"It's going to be a whirlwind," Herried says. "Just wait and see."

A bill signed by Governor Kate Brown Tuesday makes personal-use possession of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and other drugs a misdemeanor, not a felony.

"Essentially for us, it's still an arrest-able offense," says Jackson County Sheriff Nathan Sickler. This law does not protect those with prior felony convictions or two or more prior drug convictions and/or possessions. Those caught with coke or heroin, however, will still get arrested.

"We still would take action in most cases, it's just going to be how it's charged out in the district attorney's office," says Sheriff Sickler.

Instead of a felony, first time offenders will go to circuit court where they will be fined. Herried believes this law will lead to more arrests, citations, and less referrals to treatment.

"The problem is now we've delayed the process of getting them into treatment," Herried says. "I understand fully that having a felony on your record prohibits you from getting housing, a job. And we look at something that is a medical condition, which addiction is, but we need to offer treatment to people and this bill doesn't offer that.

Herried says most of the patients in the recovery center are addicted to heroin and meth amphetamines, two of the main drugs mentioned in the bill.

The new law also directs a state task to develop methods for recording traffic and pedestrian stops. The measure is aimed at ensuring police aren't stopping people based on racial or other profiling.

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