The Mayor’s proposed ordinance will amend Portland city code restrictions on illegal drug use on streets, sidewalks, and public rights-of-way
Next Wednesday, June 28, 2023, Mayor Ted Wheeler will bring the attached ordinance to Portland City Council that will propose updates to Portland’s Public Order and Policy Code. These changes will add consumption of a controlled substance to the City ordinance which already prohibits public consumption of alcohol.
Measure 110, which was approved by Oregon voters in November 2020, made Oregon the first state to decriminalize the personal possession of controlled substances. While Measure 110 decriminalizes the possession of controlled substances, this City ordinance prohibits the consumption of these substances on public property.
Statement from Mayor Ted Wheeler:
“This ordinance would amend our public consumption of alcohol ordinance to include controlled substances and outline clear and familiar expectations. This is a commonsense approach. We must make it clear that people cannot use drugs in public spaces. I appreciate that this ordinance has support from the Portland Police Bureau and the Multnomah County District Attorney’s office, and it will take all of us working together to make the kind of systemic change our city needs.”
As written in the ordinance, those convicted of violating the ordinance may receive a fine up to $500 or up to six months jail time as determined by the courts. The City—and our regional public safety partners—support alternatives to criminal punishment whenever practical when enforcing City Code.
Mayor Wheeler and the Portland City Council will discuss this ordinance at next week’s Council session. In the interim, we will not provide interviews on this subject. Please direct follow up questions to: WheelerMediaRequests@portlandoregon.gov and we will do our best to respond in a timely manner.
Please see the following video statement from Mayor Ted Wheeler:
Frequently Asked Questions:
1. Does this criminalize drugs in Portland?
The amended city code that will come before City Council next week prohibits the consumption of controlled substances (including dangerous drugs like fentanyl, cocaine, heroin, and meth) on public property, streets, sidewalks and public rights-of-way.
This amendment works in-tandem with current city code that prohibits the open consumption of alcohol on streets, sidewalks, and public rights-of-way. Currently, it is unlawful under the city code (except for sidewalk cafes or events with permits) to drink alcohol on any street, sidewalk, or public right-of-way. This ordinance seeks to prohibit the consumption of controlled substances in a similar manner, by making it illegal to consume controlled substance on public property, streets, sidewalks or the public right-of-way.
2. Define ‘consumption?’
The ordinance definition of “consume” means to inject, ingest, inhale, or otherwise introduce into the human body.
3. I assumed using drugs in public was already illegal?
State and federal laws generally regulate the possession, delivery, and manufacture of controlled substances, and state law already prohibits the consumption of cannabis in a public place. This ordinance will prohibit the consumption of controlled substances like fentanyl, cocaine, heroin, and meth on public property in Portland. The city code for some time has prohibited drinking alcohol on streets, sidewalks and public rights of way, and this ordinance expands that prohibition on consumption to controlled substances to address the more recent activity of open use of controlled substances on public property.
4. Should I call 911 to report someone consuming a controlled substance in public spaces?
No. Please do not call 911 to report a person consuming drugs in public unless there is an immediate life or safety concern. Community members can call 311 for assistance with non-emergency reporting. Police will be working to utilize current resources to begin enforcement of this ordinance as call volume permits. It will take time and collaboration with our safety partners at the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office to address how police are able to intervene, and we ask for patience and support as this collaboration continues.
5. Does this apply to private property?
This is a City ordinance that applies only to public property, streets, sidewalks, and public rights-of-way.
6. Why are you bringing this ordinance to City Council now?
Portland’s growing substance abuse problems have exploded to deadly and disastrous proportions, and the open use of controlled substances on public property contributes to this problem. This year alone, the Portland Police Bureau has already initiated over 100 suspected overdose death investigations. This is an issue that erodes not only public health, but also public safety.
7. Does this override Measure 110?
No. On November 3, 2020, Oregon voters passed Measure 110, making Oregon the first state to decriminalize the personal possession of controlled substances. For possession of smaller amounts of controlled substances, Measure 110 reduces the penalty from the criminal misdemeanor level to a new, Class E violation (a fine).
While Measure 110 decriminalizes the possession of controlled substances, this City ordinance prohibits the consumption of those controlled substances on public property. Similarly, a person can lawfully possess alcohol, but City Code also currently prohibits the consumption of alcohol on streets, sidewalks, and public rights of way without a permit.
8. What if somebody does not comply with this law change?
The City supports alternatives to criminal punishment whenever practical when enforcing City Code. As written in the ordinance, those convicted of violating the ordinance may receive a fine up to $500 or up to six months jail time as determined by the courts.
9. What about prescription drugs?
This ordinance does not apply to prescription drugs if prescribed to the person using them.
10. Will someone get a citation if they are experiencing an overdose?
The safety and well-being of our community is the top priority for our public safety partners. If an individual is experiencing an overdose, the top concern would be to connect that person with available resources to stabilize their health. Our public safety partners are trained to handle and support those experiencing overdoses to help reverse the reaction and can administer treatments like Narcan.
11. Do you have enough police to enforce these changes?
Portland Police will continue to dedicate resources to the highest risk issues facing our city while educating the at-risk community of the amendment to city code and the consequences of continued use of controlled substances in public spaces. As resources and education grow police can use the new code to address high risk violations.
Our public safety partners at the Portland Police Bureau and the District Attorney’s office support this ordinance change and are coordinated in our approach to enforcement. While Measure 110 may limit the way the Portland Police Bureau have been able to address and enforce drug possession in public spaces, the changes outlined by this ordinance provides authority to make our city safer.
Mayor Wheeler committed to hiring 300 new Police Bureau personnel over three years: 200 sworn officers and 100 public safety specialists. Between January 2022 and April 2023, PPB has hired over 200 new staff, including over 100 sworn officers, 26 PS3s, and dozens of professional staff, including background investigators, records staff, and analysts. PPB has also received over 1,800 police officer applications in that same time period. We look forward to continuing this strong recruiting and hiring trend and ask for the community’s patience and support as we restaff.
12. Is the City investing in behavioral health treatment?
Yes. The City of Portland works very closely with Multnomah County (and state leadership) on homelessness, mental/behavioral health, and addiction. Mayor Wheeler’s office serves on the Behavioral Health Emergency Coordination Network (BHECN) executive committee, which is working to open and expand resources focused on sobering, detox and mental/behavioral health services. The City of Portland is committing $1.9 million in ongoing funding to the BHECN project and invests millions of dollars with Central City Concern (CCC) on programming including behavioral health outreach. Most recently, City Council provided a $335,000 grant to Unity Center’s Psychiatric Hospital to open 9 new sobering beds in partnership with Multnomah County, Care Oregon and Legacy.
Counties play a lead role in providing behavioral health services in Oregon with support and ongoing partnership from the cites. As additional local resources are needed for behavioral health services, cites across Oregon have been stepping in to create new and complementary services alongside the work of the counties. The City of Portland funds and administers the following behavioral health related programming within city boundaries in Multnomah County.
CITY OF PORTLAND BEHAVIORAL HEALTH RELATED PROGRAMS
This work is interconnected and multi-faceted, as each individual has unique challenges and needs. We are also looking to our regional partners, with ample funding and underspent resources, to get more services online as quickly as possible and will do all we can to support and expand those efforts.
13. Does Mayor Wheeler want to repeal Measure 110?
While Mayor Wheeler supports the intention behind Measure 110, the much-needed state funds to create new substance abuse treatment resources have struggled to come online. He’s grateful to leaders across the State of Oregon that have advocated for funding and resources to be dispersed to cities more quickly as Portland and cities across the state navigate the challenging impacts that Measure 110 has imposed.