- The liberal US city where even the addicts are begging for drugs to be made illegal again: TOM LEONARD on how Portland led the way relaxing narcotics laws in a tide that swept America – then quickly bitterly regretted it
- Donna and Utah make no attempt to hide their drug abuse, but, then, why should they? For this is Portland, a bastion of progressive values.
- It’s also the biggest city in a state where voters decided by a comfortable majority in November 2020 to become the first in the U.S. to decriminalize the possession of personal amounts of all hard drugs, including heroin, methamphetamine and even fentanyl. (It remains a criminal offence to sell the substances).
- Three years on, the policy, known as Measure 110, has proved to be disastrous. Even Utah, a 33-year-old former forklift truck driver who prefers to give the Mail only his ‘street’ name, freely admits he cannot understand what possessed his fellow Oregonians to support the move.
- Speaking of the policy’s effect on drug use in the city, he says: ‘It’s made it worse. Don’t get me wrong, it makes it better for me, but getting the police off our backs and giving us free pipes and foil to do our drugs is not going to get us off the streets.’
- He estimates that 20 per cent of the city’s more than 5,000 homeless people want to tackle their addiction. But it’s hard when they live in a city that Measure 110 has turned into what even the Left-wing New York Times recently called a ‘drug-user’s paradise’.
- And it appears that after nearly three years in which Portland’s once attractive and vibrant downtown area has been turned into a tent-covered hellscape of soaring crime, endemic drug abuse and maniacal behavior, the rest of the city has finally accepted that the decriminalization experiment has spectacularly failed.
- Locals complain of having to step over used needles, shattered glass pipes and human feces on the way to work, and say they’ve become inured even to blood- curdling screaming fits from disturbed addicts.
- Ted Wheeler, Portland’s Democrat mayor, has conceded that his city’s substance abuse problems ‘have exploded to deadly and disastrous proportions’.
- Measure 110 was also heavily influenced by the anti-police hysteria that followed the murder of George Floyd in 2020 and the subsequent country-wide ‘Defund the Police’ protests as part of the Black Lives Matter movement.
- Under the new law, instead of arresting hard drug users and pushing them through a court system that often makes them get treatment, police hand addicts a ticket imposing a $100 fine that is cancelled if they phone a treatment referral hotline and agree to participate in a health assessment.
- Under Measure 110, that treatment was to be funded by tax revenue from legal marijuana sales.
- Meanwhile, fire crews have to spend much of their time dealing with overdose cases, and there’s a shortage of ambulances to answer non-drug-related medical emergencies.
- The average police response time to emergency calls is now nearly an hour.
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