“Oregon has taken a huge step towards decriminalizing drugs,” said Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, who is spearheading the effort.
“Today, the state will now be able to send offenders to treatment and help them earn back their freedom.”
The move will allow offenders who have already served a prison sentence to have their criminal record expunged, but not to be released back into the community.
The move was approved by the Oregon Supreme Court last week, meaning the measure will take effect on Jan. 1, 2020.
Oregon will now send offenders who’ve already served time to treatment, and help those who’ve served time in prison to earn back the freedom they were given under the law, said Oregon attorney general Ellen Rosenbohm.
The state’s move will be one of a handful of states to have made the same change.
The bill is modeled after California’s Proposition 187, which was signed into law in 1993.
It allows convicted criminals to avoid prison and receive the full benefits of parole for life.
Rosenbloom said that with the passage of the Oregon decriminalization measure, the issue of prison reform was finally on the national agenda.
“Oregonians are finally talking about this, and we need to do something about it,” Rosenblam said.
“I think we’re really at a turning point, and I think Oregonians are ready for it.”
Oregon’s new law will not affect drug dealers who have been convicted of drug crimes.
Those convicted of the most serious crimes, like murder, will continue to face the death penalty.
In order to be eligible for the new policy, a convicted drug dealer will need to have been sentenced to at least 15 years in prison, have served at least six months in jail, and had an unblemished record.
The law does not affect convicted sex offenders who may be eligible under the current law.
Rosenboom said it will allow some drug dealers to have an advantage over others in their communities.
“We want to make sure that those that have the most experience, the most skill level, and the best reputation are not disadvantaged,” she said.
The Oregon legislation has been endorsed by both Republican and Democratic legislators, with Republican state Rep. Chris Larson, who represents the central Oregon city of Bend, calling it “a victory for the rule of law.”
The bill, which is backed by President Barack Obama and a bipartisan group of legislators, passed the state Senate last week by a wide margin.