Oregon’s drug nightmare - A new report paints a gloomy picture of illicit drugs

Letter date: 
Monday, September 10, 2012
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Reading the executive summary to the state’s 2013 Threat Assessment and Counter-Drug Strategy is like a waking nightmare, starting with the revelation that a recent survey ranked Oregon fourth in the nation in reported illegal drug use in the prior 30 days. The report goes on to detail some sobering statistics and comments:

Drug offenders make up the largest segment of Oregon’s prison population, 24 percent, twice the number who are in for assault.

Portland had the highest percentage among 10 cities of arrestees reporting they’d used marijuana, powdered cocaine and heroin in the previous 30 days, and ranked second to Sacramento in the number reporting they’d used methamphetamine.

Deaths related to illicit drugs rose about 20 percent from 2010 to 2011 in Oregon, with heroin deaths rising 59 percent.

Methamphetamine and marijuana use and trafficking and marijuana production “remain widespread in Oregon and constitute the state’s highest illicit drug threat.”

Heroin, primarily Mexican black tar, is readily available in Oregon because Mexican production has expanded. “Mexican-based drug trafficking organizations continue to dominate the illicit drug market in Oregon,” according to the report.

Sixty-one percent of Oregon law enforcement officers surveyed this year said methamphetamine is their area’s greatest drug threat and contributes most toward violent crime and property crime.

About the only “good” news in the report is that meth lab seizures are down — only 20 in Oregon in 2011 — largely because the Legislature approved strict pseudoephedrine controls. But, the report adds, producers have now switched from powdered meth to crystal meth and Mexican drug traffickers bring that drug in from Mexican labs.

And while the seizure of outdoor marijuana plants has decreased in the past five years, the report says the size of the grow sites has increased, again because of expanded operations in Mexico.

So what are the state and the federal government doing to combat the problem? They have a series of High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (Oregon’s covers nine counties, including Lane) that are addressing the issues. The two main goals in Oregon’s 2013 HIDTA report are to “disrupt the market for illegal drugs by dismantling or disrupting drug trafficking and/or money laundering organizations,” and to “improve the efficiency and effectiveness of HIDTA initiatives.”

The details of how they’re going to accomplish those goals are in the full 68-page report, much of which reads a bit on the wonkish side. Hopefully, all those words will ultimately be translated into action and the strategy and tactics they come up with will allow them to begin to tackle the problem. There are some rankings nobody wants to be associated with, and ranking near the top in the use of illegal drugs is one of them.