SB 1557 was brought forward by Senator Chris Telfer (R-Bend) at the request of a few police officers in Bend. The officers wanted to address incidents of high school students coming to school under the influence of drugs – most often, marijuana. They claim that their officers in schools do not have the tools they need to penalize these students – punishment that they see as necessary to early intervention and treatment for substance abuse.

SB 1557 created the crime of consumption of a controlled substance by persons 21 years or younger with the penalty of a Class B violation. The bill was fraught with both procedural issues and raised significant policy concerns. The ability of an officer to determine what specific substance has been consumed would be very difficult, particularly because he could not get a warrant for a violation and thus could not get a urine sample. In addition, an officer would not be able distinguish from lawfully consumed substances. If the bill passed, it would seem that everyone age 21 and younger would effectively be required to carry with them at all times a copy of their prescription.

While the proponents of the bill have a well-intentioned concern for the well-being of young people, the approach of the bill was off base and dangerous to civil liberties. The problem of substance abuse is one that should be addressed with robust treatment resources rather than additional criminal penalties. We should not be enhancing the ability of law enforcement to stop someone in a public place for a search without probable cause under the pretext of suspicion of consumption of a controlled substance. And we certainly should not be sweeping school age kids from school into the court system.

SB 1557, like other similar proposals in prior legislative sessions, received a hearing but did not advance to a work session.