Statement from Mayor Ted Wheeler Regarding Proposed Ordinance Prohibiting Consumption of Controlled Substances in Public Spaces

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“Use of illicit drugs in public spaces—especially dangerous and highly deadly substances like fentanyl— create significant public safety and public health issues in Portland. While Measure 110 has challenged the way cities across the state address drug use, I believe the City of Portland has an obligation to do what we can to protect our community now.

The six-week walkout at the Oregon State Legislature stalled the passage of numerous bills, including HB 2645, which was a high priority bill for the City of Portland. This bill gives local law enforcement important tools to better address open drug use in our city. With the legislature stalled, I was increasingly concerned that little-to-no action was possible to respond to Portland’s substance abuse crisis with the urgency needed. Accordingly, this week, I planned to propose an amendment to City Code in Portland that would prohibit the consumption of a controlled substance in public spaces, hoping to address a loophole in Measure 110. This ordinance would have undoubtedly been challenged because of a state statute potentially limiting the authority of local governments to create laws regarding the public use of drugs. Nonetheless, I was willing to take that fight to the courts, if necessary.

Fortunately, in the last days of the legislative session, the legislature was able to move forward and pass HB 2645, which makes possession of fentanyl a misdemeanor crime across the state.

In consultation with local law enforcement and our City Attorney, we believe that HB 2645 addresses our primary concerns about the public health crisis unfolding on our streets, and it restores necessary law enforcement tools that were envisioned in my own ordinance. Therefore, it is no longer necessary to pass an ordinance at the local level and I will be withdrawing my proposed ordinance. The City will instead focus on effectively implementing HB 2645.

I applaud our state leadership for approving HB 2645. I expect this change will positively impact the City of Portland by expanding local law enforcement’s abilities to make Portland safer and healthier. As would have been the case with a local ordinance, enforcement of this state law will take time and patience as we work to continue restaffing the Portland Police Bureau. I am equally committed to increasing resources and support for our partners to better connect Portlanders to much-needed treatment services.”