Oregon, the first state to decriminalize cannabis, is again leading the nation in drug reform. Two groundbreaking psychedelics initiatives, one to create a statewide psilocybin therapy program and another to decriminalize low-level possession of all drugs and open addiction recovery centers, have gathered enough signatures to be included on the ballot in November.
On Monday the chief petitioners of Oregon Psilocybin Therapy Initiative, or IP 34, announced they had amassed 164,782 signatures. Then on Wednesday, the organizers of Oregon Drug Decriminalization and Addiction Treatment Initiative, or IP 44, tweeted they had enough valid signatures to also make the ballot.
This fall Oregonians will have the opportunity to open the door to psychedelic therapies in a nation struggling with a pandemic, racial inequality, and opiate addiction. In Oregon alone, according to Yes On IP 44, one in eleven residents struggles with substance use disorder and police arrest someone for drug offenses every hour.
Both initiatives are ambitious. One aims to restructure drug abuse as a public health concern, something that proponents have spent years advocating for, while the other hopes to expand on pioneering research that has shown therapeutic uses for psychedelics.
IP 44, the decriminalization initiative, intends to transform how the criminal justice system treats schedule I-IV substances, drugs classified by the federal government in a way that criminalizes their possession and use. According to the campaign’s website, “Instead of arresting people for possession of small amounts of drugs, IP 44 will greatly expand access to drug treatment and recovery services for anyone who wants and needs them, paid for by existing marijuana tax money.” If passed, the measure will:
- Change the state’s drug laws so that possession of small amounts of scheduled substances would be reclassified from a misdemeanor to a violation subject to a $100 fine, or in lieu of a fine, a health assessment.
- Establish drug addiction recovery centers as well as housing, treatment, peer support, and harm reduction services.
- Create an Oversight and Accountability Council established under the Oregon Health Authority to oversee the project.
- Create a Drug Treatment and Recovery Services Fund, which would receive 20 percent of the Oregon Marijuana Account money quarterly, to fund the initiative.
The therapy initiative, IP 34, states on its website that it would “create a new licensed program that would allow people to get access to psilocybin therapy to treat depression, anxiety, and addiction without a specific diagnosis — potentially helping thousands.” If passed, the initiative will:
- Create a regulatory body overseen by the Oregon Health Authority to establish a statewide therapy system.
- Require licensing to manufacture and deliver psilocybin and psilocybin related services.
- Establish a three step process of screening, therapy, and integration for qualified clients over the age of 21.
- Restrict use of psilocybin to accredited therapy centers only.
Neither initiative legalizes any drugs, a fact that Yes On IP 44 stresses several times on their campaign site. Drug decriminalization only removes criminal penalties for drug use and possession, and in some cases personal cultivation, while manufacture and distribution remain illegal and unregulated.
Originally IP 34 was also a decriminalization effort called Psilocybin Service Initiative, or IP 12, aiming to reduce penalties for personal possession and cultivation of psilocybin mushrooms. But in 2019 the chief petitioners made controversial changes to refocus its efforts on therapeutic use only. In a statement to their supporters, the petitioners wrote they believe that by focusing on a detailed legal framework for rolling out psilocybin-assisted therapy, the revised language “makes it impossible for pharma and big corporations to overrun this emerging space.”
Yes on IP 34 and Yes On IP 44 have since collaborated and encouraged their supporters to sign each other’s petitions.
Sheri and Tom Eckert, two therapists who are the chief petitioners of IP 34, cite the research results coming out of Johns Hopkins and other institutions that show psilocybin as not only safe for use in supervised settings, but also potentially life changing. “Oregon has some of the highest rates of depression, anxiety, and addiction in the country,” Sheri Eckert said in the press release on Monday. “The options we have to help those people are just not enough.”
Julie Gluickson, a chief petitioner of IP 44, said on Wednesday their initiative “will save lives, and we urgently need it right now because the pandemic has exacerbated Oregon’s addiction epidemic.”
“But what we’re up against, is more than 50 years of misinformation and stereotypes from the War on Drugs,” said campaign manager Peter Zuckerman.
IP 44 began with a collaboration with the Drug Policy Alliance on the writing of the ballot measure, and attracted significant support, including over $2 million in contributions and, endorsements from 20 organizations, including the ACLU. IP 34 also received major donations, including $875,000 from New Approach PAC and over $1 million from Dr. Bronner’s, the “activist soap company.”.
Both campaigns needed 112,020 valid signatures by July 2nd to be included on the November ballot. IP 44’s signatures have been validated by election officials. IP 34’s signatures are still being examined, but it is expected that the campaign will have enough valid signatures to appear on the ballot in the fall.