Principles and Metrics for Evaluating Oregon’s Drug Decriminalization Measure

Centering the Voices of People Who Use Drugs

By Bonnie Tse

January 31, 2022

In November 2020, Oregonians voted to pass Measure 110, a ballot initiative that decriminalizes the possession of small amounts of all drugs and increases access to low-barrier substance use disorder treatment and harm reduction services. Led by the Drug Policy Alliance, the ballot measure is a historic step forward to address drug-related arrests that disproportionally impact low-income and people of color. Legislatures in other states looking to introduce similar initiatives are now looking at evaluation efforts of Measure 110 to guide future drug decriminalization policies.

Policy evaluations, however, often fail to engage people with lived experiences in the research and evaluation process. “Any research is only good as the research questions that are asked,” shares Alex Kral, a Distinguished Fellow at the nonprofit research institute RTI International. “Sometimes we find that those questions are not actually what’s important to the people most directly impacted by the policy.” To ensure that evaluations of Measure 110 reflect the values of people who use drugs, a working group of experts, including Kral and CHERISH Policy Advisory Board Member Jules Netherland, convened to develop evaluation principles of Measure 110.

In this video, Jules Netherland, PhD, and Alex Kral, PhD, provide an overview of the report, “Oregon’s Measure 110: Principles and Metrics for Effective Evaluations.”

After interviewing people who have been directly impacted by Measure 110, the working group reported that successful evaluations of policy will:  

  1. Center people who use drugs, their families, and communities
  2. Be comprehensive
  3. Be conducted by informed researchers with relevant experience
  4. Be inclusive and prioritize high quality data and designs
  5. Use non-stigmatizing language
  6. Be transparent and accessible

They also recommend the following key domains or metrics to consider:

  1. Criminal legal data
  2. Law enforcement interactions and culture
  3. Social service environment and collateral consequences
  4. Healthcare
  5. Stigma
  6. Cost and cost savings

“The vision of Measure 110 was to build treatment, harm reduction, social service infrastructure to address drug problems,” says Netherland, who is also the managing director of the Department of Research and Academic Engagement for the Drug Policy Alliance. “We hope that it’s going to have utility beyond Oregon. My interest from an advocacy organization is making sure that these evaluations are done in a way that helps us inform future policy efforts to decriminalize drugs because we want to learn as much as we can from Oregon about what works and what doesn’t work and that’s going to take high quality and thorough evaluations.”

Read further into the group’s article, “Principles and Metrics for Evaluating Oregon’s Innovative Drug Decriminalization Measure,” now published in the Journal of Urban Health. 

Oregon's Measure 110: Principles and Metrics for Effective Evaluations

Download the full report on the Drug Policy Alliance website.