Alarming spate of overdoses draws scrutiny of open-air fentanyl market in downtown Portland –

Beneath the awnings of the boarded-up Washington Center in downtown Portland, dozens of hooded figures congregate amid the trash and graffiti. Some smoke from tin-foil trays. Here, users can score a fentanyl pill or a hit of fentanyl powder for just $2.

Ryan Howe, a habitué of the red-brick plazas next to the shuttered commercial center, said he’s trying to get clean. The 40-year-old often equips himself with Narcan, the life-saving drug that can reverse overdoses, but wasn’t able to save a man he found hunched over on Southwest Fifth Avenue last week.

…The death came hours before Portland police reported an alarming spate of 11 overdoses in one night, with most of them occurring near the Washington Center. Three of those people died, including a 25-year-old woman at the abandoned building that has become Portland’s go-to spot for scoring fentanyl. The other deaths were a few blocks away and near the waterfront.

Politicians, and I’m including district attorneys in this number, have tied the hands of law enforcement rendering the city a mess. Things have not been helped by a voter-passed law that decriminalizes virtually all narcotics, but that’s really secondary to not keeping bad guys off the streets. 

Rampant drug dealing near the Washington Center has led to the arrest of nearly 20 suspected sellers in the immediate vicinity since Feb. 1, according to an analysis by The Oregonian/OregonLive.

The charges, which typically include possession or delivery of a controlled substance, aren’t necessarily sticking.

Of the 18 alleged drug dealers identified in the court records, half had their cases dropped or dismissed by a judge because prosecutors let the charging document expire. Those cases could be reopened.

Another three defendants failed to show up in court and are now facing warrants, while the remaining six are out of custody with active cases.

The true figure is likely greater, as court records don’t always specify where a person was arrested.

Pressed on the matter, Ujifusa blamed the shortage of public defenders, as well as Multnomah County Circuit Court rules, which require jailers to release most people accused of dealing drugs, unless they’re caught with an exceptional amount. For fentanyl, that release threshold is 100 grams.

Fentanyl is typically measured in milligrams, with two milligrams being sufficient for lethality depending on the person. Portland—and you can argue this extends well beyond Oregon’s largest city—is just letting the bad guys win, and when that happens, well, people die.