Fact Check: Oregon Did NOT Legalize Cocaine, Did NOT Outlaw Straws

Fact Check

  • by: Arthur Brice
Fact Check: Oregon Did NOT Legalize Cocaine, Did NOT Outlaw Straws Law Read Wrong

Did Oregon legalize cocaine and outlaw straws? No, that's not true: Oregon implemented a law in January 2020 stipulating that plastic drinking straws cannot be given to customers automatically unless the customer is at a drive-through window. Customers can still get plastic straws upon request, and straws made of non-plastic materials are not affected by the law. Cocaine was decriminalized in a measure that passed in the November 3, 2020, election, meaning that when the measure takes effect next year, offenders with small amounts can pay a fine, like when getting a speeding ticket. But just like speeding is illegal, so is the possession of small amounts of cocaine.

The claim appeared in a post (archived here) published in Facebook on November 13, 2020. It opened:

Happy Friday 🀣🀣

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

Facebook screenshot

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Mon Nov 16 16:49:15 2020 UTC)

The full text of the meme read:

So now cocaine is legal in Oregon, but straws aren't. That must be frustrating.

The meme's use of "frustrating" in associating cocaine with straws is left for interpretation, but the facts are that cocaine has not been legalized per se in Oregon and straws have not been outlawed.

Cocaine will be decriminalized under a measure recently approved by voters. That means anyone caught with a small amount for personal use will pay a $100 fine instead of facing a criminal conviction and possible jail time. The fine will be waived if the person agrees to undergo drug treatment.

The Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act, which was on the Oregon ballot in the November 3, 2020, election, easily passed with more than 58% of the vote. It goes into effect early next year.

The full text for Measure 110 can be found here. A detailed explanation can be found here.

The separate measure on plastic drinking straws also is more nuanced than stated in the Facebook post.

Basically, food and drink establishments cannot automatically offer drinking straws to patrons. The customer has to ask for one. The news site columbiagorgenews.com explained it in an article on January 11, 2020:

Senate Bill 90, which became effective on June 13, 2019, and fully operative on Jan. 1 of this year, prohibits food and beverage providers, such as restaurants and convenience stores, from providing single-use plastic straws unless the consumer specifically requests one. The restrictions don't apply to healthcare facilities or residential facilities that provide straws to patients.

Under the law, convenience stores can still make plastic straws available in an unattended location, such as a bin or a straw-dispenser, and plastic straws can be sold in bulk or separate from a food/drink item; a plastic straw just cannot be automatically included in the purchase of a food or drink.
Single-use straws made of a non-plastic material, such as paper, pasta, sugar cane, wood or bamboo, aren't subject to the law.

The State Department of Agriculture is responsible for inspecting food establishments and enforcing the new law. After the second violation, businesses will be fined $25 per day that the prohibition is violated, with a cap at $300 per calendar year.

The measure's full wording can be found here.

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  Arthur Brice

Arthur Brice is a fact checker at Lead Stories. He has been a journalist for more than 40 years, nearly 30 of them in newspapers. Brice was a national desk editor and reporter at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for nearly 20 years. Previously, he was political editor at The Tampa Tribune and also worked for three other Florida newspapers. He spent 11 Years as an executive editor and executive producer at CNN. 

Read more about or contact Arthur Brice

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