Possession of small amounts of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine will no longer be punishable by a jail term in Oregon. Under a new bill treatment will be prioritized with the offence reduced from a felony to a misdemeanour.
House Bill 2355 passed last week meaning felony charges will no longer be associated with the possession of less than five grams of the drugs, reported Statesman Journal.
“Felony sentences for small, user quantity amounts often carry heavy consequences including barriers to housing and employment which have a disparate impact on minority communities,” House Speaker Tina Kotek said.
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The bill aims to replace jail with mandatory treatment, hoping it will encourage drug users to seek help.
“We are trying to move policy towards treatment rather than prison beds,” state Senator Jackie Winters told The Washington Post. “We can’t continue on the path of building more prisons when often the underlying root cause of the crime is substance use.”
Along with the reduced drug charges the bill also tackled racial profiling, requiring law enforcement officers to collect and submit data on the age, race, ethnicity and sex of people stopped during routine traffic or pedestrian patrols.
The Oregon Criminal Justice Commission and the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training are required to review the data by 2020 to advise agencies where profiling is an issue.