An Oregon campaign to decriminalize drug possession and invest in substance misuse treatment has released the first video ad for its initiative since the measure qualified for the November ballot.
The 90-second digital spot features Bobby Byrd, a campaign community organizer for Yes On 110 who has faced long-term social consequences for a low-level drug conviction dating back to 1993. His story is meant to highlight the need to remove criminal penalties for drug possession and address addiction as a public health issue.
“Our current drug laws can ruin lives based on a single accusation,” Byrd said in a press release on Wednesday. “My criminal record still makes it hard to get housing and a permanent job. We need to change this now.”
Watch the ad on the decriminalization initiative below:
In the video, Byrd talks about getting arrested for drugs and being pressured to take a plea bargain to avoid a potentially lengthy prison sentence.
“This has followed me for over two and a half decades. It’s kept me from getting housing, apartments, getting places near my kids,” he said. “When I tried to go to school to become a drug and alcohol counselor, you can’t get a license for that because of that drug incident.”
“It makes me feel like I’m trapped, like somebody owns me or something,” Byrd said of the stigma attached to his drug record. “We need to stop ruining lives and start funding recovery and treatment. If we all come together, we can make this work.”
The campaign has emphasized that almost 9,000 people were arrested in Oregon for minor drug offenses last year, and that people of color accounted for a disproportionate number of those cases.
Organizers also tout a recent state-run analysis showing that the decriminalization initiative would reduce felony and misdemeanor convictions for drug possession by 91 percent, and that reduction would be “substantial for all racial groups, ranging from 82.9 percent for Asian Oregonians to approximately 94 percent for Native American and Black Oregonians.”
Overall, the policy change would result in a 95 percent drop in racial disparities for possession arrests, the panel projects.
The proposal places an emphasis on expanding drug treatment programs through the use of funds derived from existing cannabis tax revenues. It would also reframe drug addiction as a health issue by decriminalizing illegal substances. Low-level possession would be considered a civil infraction punishable by a maximum $100 fine and no jail time.
Oregon voters will also decide on a separate measure to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for therapeutic purposes on their ballots.