Two campaigns to enact wide-scale drug reform in Oregon have just submitted petitions to be included on this year’s general election ballot. And unlike many other drug reform and legalization efforts that were planned for 2020, these petition efforts may actually survive the COVID-19 pandemic.
One of these campaigns is for the Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act (DATRA), or IP44, a proposal that would direct law enforcement and health officials to treat drug addiction as a health concern rather than a criminal issue. The initiative would use existing adult-use cannabis tax revenue to fund additional drug treatment programs in the state and decriminalize low-level possession of any illegal drug.
The second campaign, the Oregon Psychedelic Services Act (OPSA), would legalize psilocybin-assisted therapy in the Beaver State. This measure would authorize licensed producers to grow psilocybin mushrooms and deliver them to licensed therapists, who could administer them as an adjunct to therapy. Denver, Santa Cruz, and Oakland have already decriminalized shrooms, and New York and Vermont may soon do the same on the state level, but this bill would be the first to explicitly legalize psilocybin.
Each of the campaigns had already collected 112,020 signatures, the minimum amount necessary to qualify for a ballot measure, before the coronavirus outbreak made social distancing necessary. However, each petition must be verified before it will be accepted, and in this process, officials will throw out duplicate, illegible, or otherwise unverifiable signatures. For this reason, campaigns worked to collect additional signatures during the quarantine by having voters print out petition forms online and mail them in.
Last Friday, the DATRA campaign turned in 147,000 signatures and the OPSA campaign turned in 135,000. But even with more than 20,000 extra signatures, activists are still working hard to collect even more support. “We’re close, but we still don’t think we have enough signatures to qualify for the ballot,” said Peter Zuckerman, IP44 campaign manager, in a statement.
“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,” said Janie Gullickson, chief petitioner for DATRA and the executive director of the Mental Health and Addiction Association of Oregon, in a press release.
“Before COVID-19, Oregon already ranked nearly last in the nation in providing basic access to drug treatment,” she said. “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.”
“In times like these, we need accessible therapeutic options that can really impact people’s lives. That is what this initiative is all about,” said Sheri Eckert, a chief petitioner of the psilocybin initiative, to Marijuana Moment. “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.”
These campaigns still have a strong chance of making it to this year’s ballot, but the pandemic has derailed similar efforts all across the US. Campaigns to enact cannabis or psychedelics reform in California, Missouri, Arizona, Idaho, and North Dakota have all suspended their efforts for the year.
A psychedelics decriminalization initiative in Washington DC has just gotten a new chance at success after officials approved their new plan to collect signatures, though. And activists fighting for cannabis reform in Montana and Nebraska have resumed last-minute signature-gathering efforts with new safety protocols to protect against the coronavirus.