The Oregon wine industry for the past couple of years has faced attacks from proposed excessive tax increases to a public relations campaign aimed at damaging its brand.

What puzzles me more is while wine has been attacked, Oregon’s most glaring problem has been allowed to fester to the point of becoming an open wound.

Go to the streets of Portland and you will become sadly shocked at what you see with homelessness and hard drug use commonplace.

In 2020 58% of Oregon residents supported Measure 110, which essentially decriminalized hard drug use for drugs such as heroin, meth, and fentanyl.  The penalty for hard drug possession is a $100 fine, which can be waived if the offender calls a treatment-referral hotline. The $100 does not seem to deter hard use as “More than three-fifths of defendants failed to show up in court, while only seven people “leveraged a phone call to have their case dismissed.”[1]

Previous to Measure 110 taking effect in 2019, 280 people died of opioid overdose, in 2022 that number increased dramatically to 956, a 241% increase.[2] Since Measure 110 the number of homeless increased 22%[3] and shoplifting is up 22%, which caused Target, Nike, and REI to close locations within Portland.[4]

If anyone has visited Portland in the last ten year, they have seen a drastic change for the worst. The once beautiful city is plagued by drug problems and homelessness.

Finally, last week Oregon’s Democrats came up with a proposal to increase the punishment for hard drug users from $100 to $1,250 or up to thirty days in jail. As the Democrats control the Governor’s seat and both houses of the legislature, this is significant.

The question I have is what took so long to address the problem, and why has wine faced more stigma than hard drugs.

While hard drug use was rampant and not stopped in Portland, a report was put out in January 2021, which pegged excessive alcohol use as costing the Oregon’s economy $4.8 billion. A major proposed tax increase would see wine tax go from 65 cents per gallon to $10 and beer go from $2.60 a barrel to $70 a barrel.[5] Thankfully, the absurd tax increase was defeated. But the victory maybe short lived, the same legislator that introduced these tax increases, will chair a task force studying the public health impacts of alcohol and how much to raise taxes.

While Oregon officials were touting the negative traits of alcohol use to the tune of $4.8 billion, they were simultaneously burying data that didn’t fit their narrative.

The Oregon Health Authority hid data from September 2021 that the drastic increase in liquor taxes would have a negligible impact on societal ills for alcohol, as excessive abusers were not price sensitive.  In 2023 another bill was introduced that would take wine from 67 cents to $4.42 a gallon, a 500% increase. Somehow the Oregon Health Authority did not disclose this information when the proposed tax increases were introduced. Information that I imagine would come in very handy for the legislators studying this issue.

Now there is no word on whether the same legislator behind the excessive tax liquor increases, wants to stiffen criminal penalties for drug users to stem the flow of societal ills.

To make matters worse, in addition to a coverup, Oregon has also put a target on the back of a $7.19 billon wine industry.

The same Oregon Health Authority who withheld tax information, has a Public Health Division that made a video which shows a father shopping with his daughter putting a case of beer in his cart and then grabbing a bottle of wine. And when asked by the daughter why she can’t drink wine, he answers “because it is not good for you.” The daughter asks the father, “why do you drink it?”, which makes him answer “honestly it’s a real good question” and he puts the bottle of wine back on the shelf. The commercial is named Rethink the Drink.

Ironically, if this took place in Portland, what would occur on the sidewalks or parking lots outside the store, would probably be unhealthier than the wine!

Sadly, we enter a phase where the attacks on liquor are becoming sharp and pointed but the attacks on hard drug use are treated with kid gloves.

When drug use became rampant in Portland, the legislators sat on its hands and knees and waited years to get serious about legislation and turned their vitriol towards the liquor industry. They put out reports of liquor’s excessive harm and proposed business crushing taxes, which would destroy many industry players and harm the Oregon economy.

Alcohol is a commodity that can be used in moderation by most and not abused. Hard drugs can’t be used in moderation and are a stain on our society and destroys a city.

Guess which one Oregon treated with kid gloves!