New Law Makes Drug Possession a Misdemeanor in Oregon

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on August 22, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Oregon legalized recreational marijuana back in 2015. But what about other Schedule 1 narcotics like cocaine, meth, or LSD? While the Beaver State isn't planning on legalizing those any time soon, it is rolling back the penalties for their possession.

A new state law will downgrade first-time drug possession offenses from felonies to misdemeanors, so long as the amount is under a certain limit. So to which drugs does the new law apply? What are the limits? And how does that change the possible criminal penalties?

Possession, Priors, and Penalties

Oregon's HB 2355 applies only to first-time offenders, so those with prior felony convictions or with two or more prior convictions for drug possession can still be charged with a felony. The new law also does not change penalties for possession of large, commercial amounts of illegal drugs. Here are the drugs, and amounts addressed by the new statute:

  • Cocaine under two grams
  • Methamphetamine under two grams
  • Heroin under one gram
  • Oxycodone under 40 pills
  • MDMA/Ecstasy under one gram or five pills
  • LSD under 40 units

Instead of looking at five to ten years in prison, those charged with first-time drug possession are instead facing a maximum penalty of just one year in prison and/or a $6,250 fine.

Police, Policy, and Profiling

Both the Oregon Association Chiefs of Police and the Oregon State Sheriffs' Association supported the measure, saying convictions include unintended consequences like barriers to housing and employment. But the groups also had some reservations. "Reducing penalties without aggressively addressing underlying addiction is unlikely to help those who need it most," the groups warned in a letter to a state senator who backed the bill, adding the law "will only produce positive results if additional drug treatment resources accompany this change in policy." Another bill appropriated $7 million that can be used to pay for drug treatment.

The new law also attempts to address police profiling by directing a state commission to develop methods for recording data concerning police-initiated pedestrian and traffic stops.

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