Substance abuse, and its negative impacts on public health and safety in Oregon, held some attention in the 2019 Legislative Session, especially in light of Oregon’s status as a state with some of the highest rates of addiction and lowest access to prevention, treatment, and recovery support. Multiple data sets also continue to show that Oregonians primarily abuse, and become addicted, to four substances, namely: alcohol, cannabis, methamphetamines, and opioids. While many policies were pursued by the Oregon Legislature this Session, Association of Oregon Counties (AOC) engaged on a few key, larger-scale proposals to address the overproduction of cannabis and the opioid epidemic.
Oregon continues to struggle to contain massive overproduction of cannabis that bleeds into the interstate and international black markets. That overproduction and leakage problem has recently expanded to include large quantities of hemp products that exceed the allowable amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) under federal and state law. Especially in light of the United States Attorney’s Marijuana Enforcement Priorities, there is continuing legislative focus on the overproduction and leakage problem. Senate Bill 218, introduced by the governor and passed by the Legislature, authorizes the state to impose a temporary moratorium on new marijuana production licenses. The moratorium sunsets on January 2, 2022.
In an effort to help stem the tide of the opioid epidemic, Oregon Governor Kate Brown established an Opioid Epidemic Task Force. House Bill 2257, which passed, was the task force’s main bill this Session. The bill declares substance abuse as a chronic illness, directs the Department of Corrections (DOC) to study issues related to continuity of care for inmates, begins the process of requiring accreditation for substance abuse treatment providers, prohibits public insurance policies from requiring prior authorization for the first 30 days of treatment, and targets enhanced funding for early intervention pilot programs for treatment for pregnant persons. In addition, the bill gives dental directors access to the Oregon Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP), and allows the PDMP to be used to compare prescriptions of certain drugs between similarly situated practitioners.
A second bill, Senate Bill 910, initially introduced at the request of Multnomah County, became the vehicle for many other priorities, including additional task force recommendations. That bill passed as well, and requires pharmacies to provide written notice of the availability of naloxone (used to reverse opioid overdoses); allows pharmacists to offer to prescribe naloxone under certain circumstances; expands the overall availability of naloxone to first responders; removes the requirement for written approval by a probation officer for Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) under certain circumstances; and allows for the expansion of the Oregon PDMP to monitor prescription drugs that are not controlled substances (commonly known as “legend drugs”). Further, with regard to naloxone, Senate Bill 665 also passed, and provides for the expanded availability of naloxone in schools to address opioid overdoses.
House Bill 3273, another big policy bill that was many years in the making, passed near the very end of the 2019 Legislative Session, after much drama between various elements of the pharmaceutical industry. Crafted for Representative Sheri Schouten (D-Beaverton) by AOC Legal Counsel, Rob Bovett, the bill will provide a comprehensive statewide drug take-back program, featuring kiosks in pharmacies, as well as mail-back options. The legislation was modeled, in part, on county ordinances from California and Washington, as well as Washington County. The program will be administered by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), and paid for by the pharmaceutical industry.
Contributed by: Rob Bovett | Legal Counsel