- Two Oregon Drug Reform Campaigns Are Pushing Forward Despite the Many COVID-19 Related Challenges That Have Derailed Other National and Oregon-Based Initiatives
- Both Campaigns Appear Well on Their Way to Qualifying for the November Ballot After Submitting More Than Enough Signatures Ahead of the Deadline
- The Yes on IP 34 Campaign is Attempting to Legalize Psilocybin for Therapeutic Use, While Yes on IP 44 is Aiming to Decriminalize Drug Possession and Expand Support for Substance Abuse
This November, voters in Oregon may be in a position to support two major drug policy reform initiatives.
The first is a campaign to decriminalize the possession of drugs and expand substance abuse support and treatment. This campaign — called the 2020 Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act (DATRA) or Yes on IP 44 — has collected more than 147,000 signatures.
The second is a campaign to legalize Psilocybin (the psychedelic compound in ‘Magic Mushrooms’) for therapeutic uses. This campaign — called the Oregon Psilocybin Services Act or Yes on IP 34 — has collected more than 135,000 signatures.
Campaigns are required to collect a minimum of 112,020 valid signatures from registered voters ahead of the July 2, 2020 deadline to qualify for the November 2020 ballot. The two campaigns in question seem well on their way to qualifying for ballot access, and they both submitted more than enough raw signatures last week to make the cut.
However, the signatures have yet to be verified by the Oregon Secretary of State office. Because the current pool of signatures could contain some invalid signatures — including those with wrong addresses, and unverifiable or illegible information — activists behind the campaigns are continuing to gather support right up until the deadline. The two campaigns have partnered up to help build momentum, endorsing one another and encouraging their supporters to sign both petitions.
Initiative Petition 44 is Close, But Not There Yet
Peter Zukerman, campaign manager of Initiative Petition 44 — also known as the 2020 Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act (DATRA) — says the Yes on IP 44 campaign is aiming to shift Oregon’s approach to drug addiction from a criminal justice-based approach to a more humane and effective health-based approach. If the initiative qualifies for the ballot and is approved by Oregon voters in November, the result would be expanded access to treatment and recovery services throughout the state, paid for with taxes and proceeds from legal cannabis sales.
Initiative Petition 44 would not legalize any drugs but would provide individuals struggling with addiction with the help they need, rather than dishing out arrests and criminal punishments. But despite the promising number of signatures they’ve gathered so far, Zukerman says they’re not there yet.
“We’re close, but we still don’t think we have enough signatures to qualify for the ballot,” explains Zukerman in a Yes on IP 44 press release. “Some of the signatures being turned in could be invalid because, for example, the person who signed has illegible handwriting and could not be verified to be a registered Oregon voter.”
Janine Gullickson, one of the chief petitioners of Initiative Petition 44, as well as the Executive Director of the Mental Health and Addiction Association of Oregon, spoke about the challenges and opportunities that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented.
“One of the reasons we’ve been able to still gather thousands of signatures during the shutdown is because more and more people are realizing that we need this initiative right now more than ever,” explains Gullickson. “Before COVID-19, Oregon already ranked nearly last in the nation in providing basic access to drug treatment. The isolation and stress from the pandemic has made our state’s addiction crisis even worse. That’s why I’m helping lead the campaign to pass IP 44 and get more treatment and recovery services to more people in more parts of Oregon.”
Psilocybin Finds a Way Forward
Despite several other national and Oregon-based ballot campaigns being derailed by the social distancing requirements and stay-at-home orders of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Oregon Psilocybin Services Act has found a way forward. Residents are being asked to print the form, fill it out at home, and physically mail it to the campaign office.
“The pandemic has put physical distance between so many of us,” explains Sam Chapman, manager of the Oregon Psilocybin Services Initiative, also known as the Yes on IP 34 Campaign. “But we’re doing everything we can to overcome that distance through thoughtful outreach to all potential supporters.”
Sheri Eckert, one of the chief petitioners of the Oregon Psilocybin Services Act campaign, described how last week’s petition submission was the culmination of many years of behind-the-scenes work.
The submission of the signatures “represents five years of development, planning, coalition building, and overall effort,” explains Eckert. “In times like these, we need accessible therapeutic options that can really impact people’s lives. That is what this initiative is all about. We’re honored by the support and faith that so many Oregonians have put into this effort, and we’re excited to have made this leap towards qualification.”
Following last week’s submission of both petitions, the Oregon Secretary of State office now has until June 19, 2020, to analyze a random sample of the signatures. If an adequate number of the selected signatures are deemed valid — thus suggesting that the number of valid signatures exceeds the minimum requirement — the measures will be approved for the November ballot.
Let’s hope that the promising developments Oregon is experiencing are a sign of things to come.
About the Oregon Psilocybin Services Initiative – Yes on IP 34 Campaign
The Psilocybin initiative’s website states, “IP 34 gives those suffering from depression, anxiety, and anyone that would benefit, a new treatment option by creating a licensed and supervised psilocybin-assisted therapy system. Pioneering studies from medical institutions such as John Hopkins, Harbor UCLA and NYU, suggest that psilocybin therapy may be a revolutionary treatment for depression, anxiety and addiction. This promising research has prompted experts in Oregon to advance IP 34 for the November ballot — IP 34 will create a licensed psilocybin therapy program, so Oregonians have the best therapeutic options available.”