Why Oregon's Going From Drug Decriminalization To Recriminalization | Crooked Media
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March 04, 2024
What A Day
Why Oregon's Going From Drug Decriminalization To Recriminalization

In This Episode

  • Oregon’s legislature has reintroduced criminal penalties for hard drug possession, effectively reversing course three years after voters passed the state’s Measure 110 and decriminalized possession in many cases. Many describe the reversal as a big setback for the criminal justice reform movement. But to understand how we got here, we look at where Oregon fell short in its implementation of Measure 110.
  • Israel boycotted ceasefire talks in Cairo on Sunday after Hamas refused a demand to provide a list of all the hostages who are still alive and in their captivity. Meanwhile as the humanitarian crisis in Gaza continues to worsen, the U.S. carried out its first airdrop of aid supplies into the region.
  • And in headlines: CVS and Walgreens will start dispensing abortion pills, Caitlin Clark shatters an NCAA scoring record, and Donald Gorske shatters a McDonald’s eating record.


Show Notes:





Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Monday, March 4th. I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


Josie Duffy Rice: And I’m Josie Duffy Rice. And this is What a Day where we’re saluting Rihanna for securing a reported $6.3 million payment for performing at a wedding. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Technically, it was a pre-wedding celebration for the son of India’s richest man. But the lesson here everybody is know your worth. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I will sing Rihanna songs at a wedding for access to the buffet. That’s my worth. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Josie, we gonna have to work on that. [music break]


Josie Duffy Rice: On today’s show, we break down why Oregon lawmakers are about to recriminalize some drug possession after voters decriminalized it three years ago. Plus, abortion bills will soon be available at many CVS and Walgreens stores across the country. 


Tre’vell Anderson: But first, an update on the war in Gaza. From the bleak outlook for the current cease fire talks to more calls for an immediate cease fire, one of which came yesterday from Vice President Kamala Harris. 


[clip of Vice President Kamala Harris] Given the immense scale of suffering in Gaza, there must be an immediate cease fire. [cheers] For at least the next six weeks, which is what is currently on the table, this will get the hostages out and get a significant amount of aid in. This would allow us to build something more enduring, to ensure Israel is secure, and to respect the right of the Palestinian people to dignity, freedom, and self-determination. Hamas claims it wants a cease fire. Well, there is a deal on the table. And as we have said, Hamas needs to agree to that deal. Let’s get a cease fire. Let’s reunite the hostages with their families, and let’s provide immediate relief to the people of Gaza. 


Tre’vell Anderson: That was the vice president and some very spirited uh folks in the audience, I’m sure you heard, at an event in Selma yesterday. The event commemorated the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, that 1965 day on which mostly Black civil rights demonstrators were beaten by racist police officers while trying to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge. And you just heard VP Harris echoing what we’ve been covering on this show, which is a potential ceasefire deal that would bring the violence in Gaza to a pause, return the Israeli hostages that Hamas kidnaped on October 7th. Free hundreds of Palestinians who’ve been detained in Israeli prisons and allow much needed aid to get to the many civilians that have been caught in the middle of this now five month long war. But it’s now looking like this deal could be in jeopardy. That’s because on Sunday, the latest round of negotiations for a cease fire were supposed to happen in Cairo. And according to an Israeli newspaper. Apparently, Israel boycotted the talks. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Okay. Do we know why that happened? 


Tre’vell Anderson: So apparently, Israel demanded that Hamas provide them a list of all the hostages who are still alive and in their captivity. And when Hamas rejected that demand, Israel reportedly didn’t show up to the negotiation table. Again, this is all according to Yedioth Ahronoth, which is a daily newspaper in Israel who say they’re quoting Israeli officials. But none of this has been otherwise independently verified as of our recording. But if it is true, all of this, you know, hopeful language that we’ve been hearing from the Biden administration over the last week or so, it’s going to mean nothing. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. And meanwhile, the humanitarian crisis that this war has caused is getting even worse. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. More than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed since October 7th, almost 71,000 people injured. Just over the past few days at least 15 children have died from malnutrition and dehydration. All of these numbers are according to the Gazan Health Ministry and according to the United Nations World Food Program, an estimated 300,000 people are living with little food or clean water. Literal famine is at the doorstep of the entire population of Gaza, which is 2.2 million people, almost all of whom have been displaced. And so the humanitarian situation is beyond dire. And that brings me to a note about the more than 100 Palestinians who died while trying to access aid last week. Israel’s military said Sunday that their preliminary review of the incident has revealed that most of the folks who were killed died by stampede. That, of course, conflicts with reports from local health officials, one of whom told Reuters, quote, “any attempt to claim that people were martyred due to overcrowding or being run over is incorrect. The wounded and martyrs are the result of being shot with heavy caliber bullets.” 


Josie Duffy Rice: So obviously the situation is incredibly dire for the people of Gaza, and trying to get aid can be really, really dangerous. So what is being done to address this? Like how are they going to fix this problem? 


Tre’vell Anderson: U.S. officials told Politico that the incident made it even more important to get aid into Gaza and via other methods than just convoys. And so the U.S. carried out its first airdrop of aid for Gaza over the weekend. The air force of the country Jordan helped deliver more than 38,000 meals to the Gaza coastline. But airdrops are not the best method by which to ensure aid is getting to those who need it most. For example, a former USAID worker named Dave Harden posted on Twitter that they’re, quote, “likely to create more risk for the U.S. and civilians in Gaza.” So the Biden administration is going to have to see how they can get Netanyahu and the Israeli military to allow aid into the country uninterrupted in some other ways. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Thanks for that Tre’vell. Now we’re going to turn to another issue we’re following, this one at home. Oregon’s legislature has reintroduced criminal penalties for hard drug possession. Lawmakers recently reached a bipartisan agreement that would make minor possession a misdemeanor. This new bill, which rolls back parts of the referendum measure 110, passed both the state Senate and the state House late last week, and the governor has indicated that she will sign it. This comes three years after voters passed measure 110, which decriminalized small amounts of illicit drugs. Of course many people are saying that this is a big setback for the criminal justice reform movement, but I’ll explain how it’s a little bit more complicated than that. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Okay, so give us a bit of background here. Tell us a bit more about measure 110. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. So measure 110 passed in the fall of 2020. This was a time you may remember when much of the country was thinking about the harms of the criminal justice system. The measure decriminalized small amounts of drugs, including hard drugs like heroin and meth. So instead of being arrested, people found with drugs would receive a citation and information on treatment access. And the hope was that this would reduce this revolving door of criminalization and drug use that has plagued many places, including Oregon, for so long. It was also supposed to drive more resources to treatment and help to ensure that people with drug addiction could get the assistance they needed. In practice, though, the past three years have been rough for Oregon. They’ve seen the steepest increase in overdose deaths in the country since the pandemic, according to the CDC. And in general, they’ve been hit really hard by the fentanyl epidemic that is hitting a lot of places really hard right now, right? Not just Oregon. This is why the state really wants to roll the measure back. And basically this new law passed last week would make personal possession of hard drugs a misdemeanor, punishable by six months in jail. It would also enable authorities to confiscate the drugs. And it would also offer treatment as an alternative to penalties. So it doesn’t mean you’re necessarily are going to jail because you can get treatment. There is an option for that. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Gotcha. And now there are media reports that argue that the decriminalization is the reason that Oregon saw an increase in drug deaths, and that the rollback is supported by about more than half of voters, according to a survey last year by the firm DHM Research. But there are some complicating factors here, right?


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah there are. I mean, for one, the fentanyl crisis is ravaging the entire country and it’s only getting worse. So that’s not at all to downplay what Oregon is seeing, which is rough. But overdose deaths are up drastically everywhere. The CDC says we saw a 30% increase in 2020, a 15% increase in 2021. We had a record high of overdose deaths last year. The fentanyl crisis and the opioid crisis is out of control and probably the hardest public policy problem to solve. I mean, these drugs are doing a number on all kinds of people in all kinds of communities. And so it’s not going to be solved by one law. It’s just not. Oregon, though, has seen a significant increase, and a state audit found that they currently have the second highest rate of substance use disorder in the nation. But if you look at death rates from the CDC when it comes to the same crisis, Oregon’s is actually lower than average compared to other states. I think they ranked like 32nd in the nation, and that includes states with much harsher laws. West Virginia is ranked first with a death rate almost four times as high. And states like Tennessee, Louisiana, Kentucky, and many others. States that have not decriminalized a dang thing and are still well within the throes of the war on drugs, are also in the throes of this crisis. So it’s really simplistic to imply that one law or one policy is the source of anything, because places with different laws, different policies, different rules, different approaches are all kind of facing similar crises, right? 


Tre’vell Anderson: And what about treatment options? What does that look like in Oregon? 


Josie Duffy Rice: So measure 110 was supposed to do two things basically it was supposed to decriminalize drugs and was supposed to drive a lot of money into treatment and help. But a state audit of the measure last year found that only one of those things was happening successfully. So drugs were decriminalized, yes, but the state ranked 50th in the nation for access to treatment. 50th, that’s dead last. If you want to solve the drug problem, you have to have real access to treatment. You have to have real access to overdose prevention sites. You have to have real access to all sorts of tools to really keep people alive. And Oregon doesn’t have that. I mean, again, they’re ranked 50th. So without that, it’s really, really, really hard to address the problem. 


Tre’vell Anderson: So Josie, you are a criminal justice expert. Measure 110 was a big part of criminal justice reform in Oregon. I’d love to hear from you. What does it say that lawmakers are on the precipice of rolling it back now and once again, criminalizing some forms of drug possession? 


Josie Duffy Rice: It wasn’t just even in Oregon. It was like nationwide. Measure 110 got a lot of attention. And so I think people are really seeing this as a serious setback. And in some ways it’s absolutely disappointing. Oregon did something bold, and it’s hard to kind of see this chain of events after an attempt to address drug use differently. But the truth is, like at the end of the day, the fentanyl crisis is the worst we’ve ever seen it. Fentanyl is everywhere, and without a very real, sustained alternative, decriminalization is not going to fix the problem. But reformers have been saying all of this time, right? Is that like, it’s very hard to solve a problem once you’re in it. Prevention is extremely key when it comes to all sorts of social ills. What often happens is that we’re in the midst of a really serious problem, and the only kind of response we can think of, and that seems immediate is criminalize. Criminalize, criminalize, criminalize, right? And it becomes really hard for lawmakers to think differently about criminalization when the crisis is this bad. They would rather go with failing policy they know, than imperfect policy that they don’t. And in a situation like this, it’s hard to blame them, given the incentives of politics. But the truth is that we’re not going to be able to get ourselves out of this crisis long term by locking up people either. Prevention is really, really key here. Helping people avoid this crisis versus trying to solve it on the back end is really, really key. Access to help is very, very key. Access to uncomfortable but really important solutions like overdose prevention sites are key here. And you know, even with all of those solutions, even if we put them all in place, we’re still facing a really uphill battle. This is a crisis unlike any we’ve ever seen in this country, ever. And so it’s really hard for policymakers to figure out the exact right solution. So we’ll put a link to some local reporting on this so you can know more about the situation in Oregon. But that is the latest for now. We will be back after some ads. [music break]




Josie Duffy Rice: Now let’s wrap up with some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Nikki Haley indicated she’s no longer committed to supporting Donald Trump if he’s the Republican presidential nominee. Ahead of debates hosted by the Republican National Convention last fall, the party had all the candidates, including Haley, sign a pledge saying that they would support the eventual nominee. But yesterday, when asked about the topic on Meet the Press, Haley said this. 


[clip of Nikki Haley] The RNC pledge, I mean, at the time of the debate, we had to take it to where would you support the nominee? And you had to in order to get on that debate stage you said yes. The RNC is now not the same RNC now it’s– 


[clip of Meet the Press interviewer] So you’re no longer– 


[clip of Nikki Haley] –Trump’s daughter-in-law. 


[clip of Meet the Press interviewer] –bound by that pledge? 


[clip of Nikki Haley] No, I think I’ll make what decision I want to make, but that’s not something I’m thinking about. 


Tre’vell Anderson: So, you know, a whole lot of words to say I’m not sure. Haley might feel like she can put off the question, though, for a bit longer after last night when she won the Washington, DC primary in her first victory of the 2024 primary season. The election was small, with just over 2000 people voting. But Haley got over 62% of the vote and all of the city’s 19 delegates. She’ll have a better sense of what her odds look like after tomorrow’s Super Tuesday elections. But everybody else already knows how this is going to shake out. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Well we know what her odds are. Congrats on winning the 2000 vote election but– 


Tre’vell Anderson: A wins a win, Josie. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Mmm. Is it? I don’t know that they’re all equal. [laughter] After a long wait, CVS and Walgreens announced on Friday that they’ll start dispensing the abortion pill Mifepristone in states where it’s legal to do so. It’s a huge win for reproductive rights, especially since in 2022, the Guttmacher Institute said medication abortions account for more than half of abortions across the US. The pharmacy chains had to become certified to dispense the pills after the Food and Drug Administration wrote new rules early last year allowing retail pharmacies to sell them. Mifepristone will require a prescription, but easy access to it for everyone is still not in the clear. Later this month, the Supreme Court is going to be reviewing a lower court decision that could restrict access to the abortion pill by mail, even in states where abortion is legal. It’ll be the first big abortion case before the High Court since Roe versus Wade was overturned in 2022. President Biden said in a statement on Friday, quote, “I encourage all pharmacies that want to pursue this option to seek certification.” 


Tre’vell Anderson: Turning to some amazing news from the sports world. 


[clip of Fox Sports reporter] This, for college basketball history. [cheers and applause] She does it with a [?] shot. 


Tre’vell Anderson: That was Fox Sports, capturing the moment when Iowa Hawkeyes college basketball star Caitlin Clark shattered a scoring record in her team’s game against Ohio State yesterday. She is now the all time NCAA Division one scoring leader with 3685 career points. She surpassed Pete Maravich’s previous record of 3667. Maravich’s record stood for more than 50 years until Clark and she scored 35 total points yesterday, helping the Hawkeyes clinch a key win. And it was all the more exciting because Maya Moore, former WNBA champion and one of Clark’s biggest idols, was in the stands to witness the record breaking game. Clark also recently announced that she’s declaring for the 2024 WNBA draft. And in other basketball news, LeBron James became the first NBA player to score a career total of 40,000 points. The milestone happened on Saturday evening in the Lakers game against the Denver Nuggets. Almost a month ago, James also broke the all time scoring record that was previously held by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Staying on the topic of history making athletic achievements, the Guinness World Record holder for most Big Macs eaten in a lifetime has extended his streak. Wisconsin’s Donald Gorske hit 34,000 lifetime Big Macs late last week, according to Guinness. This number underscores both his devotion to the wet, multilayered sandwich and his skill at keeping track of lunch. At 70 years old, Mr. Big Mac has slowed down recently, dropping from nine Big Macs a day in his physical prime to two a day now. Nine is crazy. 


Tre’vell Anderson: [laugh] It is wild. 


Josie Duffy Rice: If you’re looking to unseat Gorske, here’s a way to do it without spending half your life in the line for the drive thru, he says nowadays, he buys his hamburgers in two weekly batches, eating one fresh at the restaurant and microwaving the others throughout the week. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Mm mm. [disapprovingly]


Josie Duffy Rice: [laugh] What’s the worst part of this story? Is it the microwaved four day old Big Mac, or is it the nine Big Macs a day? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Nine Big Macs in one day might be the definition of overkill. 


Josie Duffy Rice: It’s crazy. Let’s say you’re awake for 16 hours. That’s more than one every two hours. 


Tre’vell Anderson: But they don’t start making lunch until eleven. 


Josie Duffy Rice: That’s true. [laughter] Like you can’t even start until eleven. That’s crazy. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Cut it out. [laughing] It’s commitment Josie, is what it is. 


Josie Duffy Rice: It’s true. I’m not committed to anything in my life that much. Nothing and no one. And those are the headlines. 




Josie Duffy Rice: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, microwave a Big Mac and tell your friends to listen. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And if you are into reading and not just invitations to pre-weddings featuring performances by Rihanna like me, What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I’m Josie Duffy Rice. 


[spoken together] And watch your back, Donald Gorske. 


Josie Duffy Rice: It’s not going to be Big Macs for me, but I’m sure I’ll find something pretty dumb. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I think I could do chicken nuggets, perhaps?


Josie Duffy Rice: Nine packs of six a day? 54. 


Tre’vell Anderson: It’s a lot of chicken. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I’m not built like Donald. I’ll be dead. Nine a day. I’d be dead after a week. [laughter] [music break]


Tre’vell Anderson: What a Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our associate producers are Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf with production help today from Jon Millstein, Greg Walters, and Julia Claire. Our showrunner is Leo Duran and our executive producer is Adriene Hill. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.