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Psychedelics

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Santa Cruz Needle Exchange Hit With NIMBY Lawsuit, Mexico Supreme Court Okays Legalization Vote Delay, More... (12/11/20)

The Mexican Supreme Court grants another extension on its deadline to end marijuana prohibition, the Oakland city council will next week take up a measure calling on the state to decriminalize psychedelics, and more.

The Oakland City Council has psychedelics on its mind. (Creative Commons)
Heroin and Prescription Opioids

South Carolina Lawmakers File Slew of Bills to Fight Opioid Epidemic. Lawmakers have filed a package of bills aimed at the opioid epidemic, including H. 3362, which would require Medicaid plans to pay for opioid treatment; H. 3363, which would treat criminal offenses involving synthetic opioids like those involving heroin; and H. 3364, which would allow authorities to charge the seller of a drug involved in a fatal overdose to be charged with manslaughter.

Psychedelics

Oakland City Council Will Vote Next Week on Resolution Calling on State to Decriminalize Psychedelics. The city council will take a resolution pushed by Decriminalize Nature that calls on the state to decriminalize psychedelics and let cities and counties allow "healing ceremonies" where people could use those drugs. Decriminalize Nature was inspired to look beyond local measures after state Sen. Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) announced plans to file a statewide psychedelic decrim bill.

Harm Reduction

Santa Cruz, California, Needle Exchange Program Sued by NIMBY Neighbors. The Harm Reduction Coalition of Santa Cruz County has now been hit with a lawsuit over its needle exchange program by unhappy neighbors. The group's needle exchange program "poses a serious threat to the health and safety of the citizens of Santa Cruz County," the plaintiffs argue, and have led to a "significant" number of discarded needles. The Harm Reduction Coalition has long refuted that charge, saying it has removed thousands of needles from the area.

International

Mexican Supreme Court Grants Another Extension to Marijuana Legalization Deadline, Allowing Final Vote to Take Place Next Year. After the Chamber of Deputies requested a delay in a looming vote on the marijuana legalization bill, citing the complexity of the bill, the Supreme Court on Thursday extended the deadline by which the government must act to end marijuana prohibition. The latest deadline was December 15; it has now been pushed back to the end of the spring legislative session in April.

NJ to End Pot Possession Prosecutions, OR County to End Drug Possession Prosecutions, More... (11/27/20)

The impact of voters' choices earlier this month is beginning to be felt, a new poll has New Yorkers ready to legalize marijuana, Vancouver's city council votes to move toward drug decriminalization, and more.

Drug decriminalization begins to take hold in Oregon, so we're going to be seeing less of this. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Jersey Attorney General Orders End to Marijuana Possession Prosecutions. In a Wednesday letter to city, county, and state prosecutors, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal ordered them to put a halt to small-time marijuana possession prosecutions until at least January 25. "It simply does not make sense or serve justice to proceed with prosecutions on charges that may be foreclosed soon through legislative action," Grewal said in a statement. "Fairness demands that we suspend prosecution of marijuana possession-related cases while we await direction from the Legislature.".

New York Poll Has Support for Marijuana Legalization at All-Time High. A Sienna College poll released Tuesday has support for legalizing marijuana at an all-time high, with 60% saying it is time to free the weed. That's up five points from the same poll in February, when 55% supported it. Meanwhile, the number of people who opposed it dropped from 40% in February to 32% now.

Medical Marijuana

New Jersey Court Rules State Must Change "Unreasonable" System to Decide Who Can Sell Medical Marijuana. A three-judge appellate court ruled Wednesday that the state's system for determining who get can medical marijuana dispensary licenses was not transparent, created confusion in the industry, and was "unreasonable." The court threw out a 2018 decision awarding six licenses and ordered the health department to come up with a better rating system.

Drug Policy

Oregon County to End Low-Level Drug Possession Prosecutions. Prosecutors in Clackamas County, just outside Portland, sent a letter to local police chiefs Monday telling them that while they disagreed with voters' decision to decriminalize drug possession earlier this month, they will heed their wishes and drop drug possession cases. "Having officers investigate and submit cases for a prosecution in the weeks leading up to February 1, which will not lead to any sanction or court supervised treatment, is not the most effective use of criminal justice resources," the prosecutor's office said.

International

Canadian Government Gives Formal Response to Petition to Decriminalize Psychedelics. Responding to a petition presented to parliament signed by more than 15,000 Canadians calling for the decriminalization of psychedelics, government ministers formally replied that no such move would take place until psychedelics underwent further study. The ministers also pointed to ways some people could obtain exemptions to use them legally despite federal prohibition.

Vancouver City Council Unanimously Approves Motion to Seek Decriminalization of Drug Possession. The Vancouver city council voted unanimously Wednesday to approve a motion asking the federal government to let it decriminalize simple drug possession. The motion was spearheaded by Mayor Kennedy Stewart, who cited high drug overdose death numbers. "On the same day that the B.C. Coroners Service confirmed that a person a day continues to die in our city due to drug overdose, Vancouver has once again decided to lead the way on drug policy in order to save lives," Stewart said. "If approved by the federal government, we will begin a robust process to determine how decriminalization will be implemented in Vancouver."

CA Psychedelic Decrim Bill Coming, British Heroin-Assisted Treatment Pilot Gets Results, More... (11/11/20)

The odor of marijuana will no longer be the sole grounds for police searches in Virginia after March 1, a bid to legalize marijuana in Colombia has failed, but another remains alive, and more.

Peyote and other psychedelics could be decriminalized under a bill soon to be filed in California. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Virginia Law Ending Searches Based on Marijuana Order Goes into Effect on March 1. After lawmakers passed Senate Bill 5029 during a special session, police will no longer be able to conduct searches based solely on the odor of marijuana. The law will go into effect on March 1.

Psychedelics

California Will See Bill to Decriminalize Psychedelics. State Sen. Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) said Tuesday he plans to introduce a bill that would decriminalize the possession of psilocybin mushrooms and other psychedelics. Weiner is also pushing a broader drug policy agenda that includes legalizing safe injection sites and ending mandatory minimum sentences for some drug offenses. "The war on drugs has been a disaster, in terms of bloating law enforcement, tearing apart communities, criminalizing addiction and spending enormous amounts of money on prisons," Wiener said. "We need to end the war on drugs. Possession of drugs should just not be a crime."

International

British Pilot Heroin Maintenance Program Celebrates First Year. A heroin-assisted treatment (HAT) program in Middlebrough marked its first anniversary this week and is reporting good results. Half of the 14 people who began the program remain on it and the result has been "low re-offending rates, improved physical and mental well-being, and repaired relationships with family and friends," according to the program's director. The people remaining on the program had committed 541 detected criminal offenses before entering the program, but only three since joining. Participants come twice a day to a clinic to inject pharmaceutical heroin in a supervised setting.

Colombia Shelves Congressional Bill on Marijuana Legalization. A bill that would have legalized marijuana has been defeated in the Chamber of Representatives on a vote of 102-52. Right-wing factions allied with President Ivan Duque defeated the bill. But a second marijuana legalization bill is still alive in the Senate and will be debated by mid-month. To become law, that bill must be fully approved by year's end.

House to Vote on Legalization Bill Next Month, SF Psychedelic Reform Push, More... (11/20/20)

No more pot prosecutions in Phoenix, a new marijuana legalization bill in Texas, a push for psychedelic reform in San Francisco, and more.

The Garden State is moving full speed ahead on implementing marijuana legalization. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

House to Vote on Federal Marijuana Legalization Next Month. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said Monday that the House would vote on the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act (HB 3884) next month. It had been scheduled for a September vote, but was delayed after moderate Democrats worried that advancing a marijuana vote ahead of a renewed coronavirus package would hurt their election chances. Instead, several of those moderates lost on Election Day, while marijuana legalization went four for four.

Arizona's Most Populous County Gives Up on Marijuana Prosecutions. The Maricopa County (Phoenix) Attorney's Office announced Monday it will drop all pending charges for marijuana use by adults in the wake of the passage of a marijuana legalization initiative, Proposition 207, with 60% of the vote last week. "Instead of continuing to spend resources on these cases, this office will begin implementing the will of the voters immediately," the office said in a written statement Monday.

New Jersey Lawmakers Vote to Advance Legislation to Implement Marijuana Legalization. Companion marijuana legalization implementation bills A21 and S21 advanced in committee Monday, with A21 approved by the Assembly Oversight, Reform, and Federal Relations Committee and S21 approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bills allow for home delivery, on-site consumption, protections for employees, students, parents, tenants, and those needing organ transplants, but not home cultivation. Both bills are set for hearings in their respective appropriations committees later this week.

Texas State Senator Pre-Files Marijuana Legalization Bill. State Senator-Elect Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio) made marijuana legalization one of his campaign centerpieces, and now he's following through by a pre-filing a marijuana legalization bill. "There is going to be a budget shortfall to affect all Texans next legislation session, however, I look forward to working with my colleagues to offer a real solution," Gutierrez said in a news release. "This bill will generate new revenue and create at least 30,000 high paying jobs. Our state's economic future is uncertain and in order to best serve our state, we have to look at cannabis legalization as a solution and not keep going back to the taxpayers and raise their taxes."

Psychedelics

Psychedelic Advocates Eye San Francisco Reform. Following Election Day victories in Oregon and Washington, DC, San Francisco activists are ready to press for policy changes in the district attorney's office. Decriminalize Nature national board chair Carlos Plazola said things may be about to change in the city. "We have a call next week with District Attorney [Chesa Boudin]," Plazola said, "in which we hope to do the same thing we recently did in Ann Arbor." Ann Arbor deprioiritzed enforcement of laws against possessing psychedelics in September.

A Clean Sweep for Drug Reform Initiatives [FEATURE]

The day after Election Day, national election results remained muddy, but one thing was crystal clear: the American public is ready for drug reform. Drug reform initiatives went nine for nine on Tuesday. With successful marijuana legalization initiatives in two of the reddest of the red states to a groundbreaking drug decriminalization initiative and the first voter-approved psychedelic liberalization initiatives, we can see the erosion of drug prohibition happening right before our eyes.

Perhaps the most striking victory of all is Oregon's Measure 110, which will decriminalize the possession of personal use amounts of all drugs and use revenues from legal marijuana sales to help fund expanded drug treatment. People caught with drugs can either pay a $100 fine or complete a health assessment. Distribution of such drugs would remain criminalized.

The notion of not arresting people just for having or using "hard" drugs is a radical one in the United States, but increasingly common in the rest of the world. At least 29 countries have embraced some form of drug decriminalization, and even the US has seen marijuana possession decriminalized in a number of states. But not cocaine or heroin or meth or LSD. Or not until Tuesday, when more than 58% of Oregon voters said let's try something new.

"Today's victory is a landmark declaration that the time has come to stop criminalizing people for drug use," said Kassandra Frederique, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, in an email message on Tuesday evening. "Measure 110 is arguably the biggest blow to the war on drugs to date. It shifts the focus where it belongs -- on people and public health -- and removes one of the most common justifications for law enforcement to harass, arrest, prosecute, incarcerate, and deport people. As we saw with the domino effect of marijuana legalization, we expect this victory to inspire other states to enact their own drug decriminalization policies that prioritize health over punishment."

Drug Policy Alliance and its lobbying arm, Drug Policy Action Network, spearheaded the Measure 110 campaign, just as they backed the state's successful 2014 marijuana legalization initiative.

And speaking of marijuana legalization, the weed swept to victory everywhere it was on the ballot -- in Arizona and New Jersey but also in deeply conservative Montana and South Dakota. That means the number of states that have freed the weed jumped from 11 to 15.

"From the Badlands to the Jersey Shore, and from the Grand Canyon to Big Sky Country, Americans across the country have embraced the idea that marijuana legalization is the policy decision that best serves the interests of public health, public safety, and, most importantly, justice," Matthew Schweich, deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project and one of the leaders of the Montana and South Dakota campaigns, said in a Wednesday email.

In Arizona, the marijuana legalization initiative, Proposition 207: The Smart & Safe Arizona Act, cruised to victory Tuesday night with 60 percent of the vote. It will legalize marijuana for people 21 and over and allow for home grows of up to six plants. The state will regulate a legal marijuana market with a 16% tax on retail sales.

"Arizona voters have spoken, and they are ready for marijuana legalization," said Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, in a Tuesday night email. "According to the latest Gallup poll, 66% of Americans support marijuana legalization, and this victory further reinforces that stance," Hawkins added. "We are poised for major marijuana reform federally. Regardless of who controls the White House, the House, or the Senate, Americans are ready for legal marijuana."

In Montana, Constitutional Initiative 118 and Initiative 190 won with 58 percent and 57 percent of the vote, respectively. I-190 is a statutory initiative that would legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana for adults 21 and over. CI-118 is a constitutional initiative that would allow I-190 to set the minimum age at 21, as is the age for alcohol consumption in the state.

In New Jersey, Public Question 1 is a legislatively referred constitutional amendment that legalizes marijuana for people 21 and over and allows for system of regulated to the state sales tax of 6.625%. It leaves questions such as possession limits and whether to allow home grows up the legislature and state regulators. It won with a resounding 67 percent of the vote.

In South Dakota, Constitutional Amendment A won 54 percent of the vote in a state where more than 60 percent voted for Donald Trump. The measure will legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by people 21 and over and allow for the home cultivation of up to three plants in jurisdictions with no retail marijuana outlets. It also envisions a legal marijuana market with a sales tax of 15% and requires the state legislature to pass laws providing for medical marijuana and hemp by next spring.

"This historic set of victories will place even greater pressure on Congress to address the glaring and untenable conflicts between state and federal laws when it comes to cannabis legalization," said Hawkins. "With the passage of these initiatives, one-third of the population now lives in jurisdictions that have legalized cannabis for adult use, and 70% of all states have embraced cannabis for medical use."

And speaking of cannabis for medical use, two deep red states, Mississippi and South Dakota both approved medical marijuana initiatives on Tuesday night. Mississippi's Initiative 65 overcome a watered down legislative alternative to win with 74 percent of the vote, while South Dakota's Measure 26 won with 70 percent. That brings the number of states with access to medical marijuana to 38.

And then, there's the psychedelic front. On the East Coast, Washington, DC, voters approved Initiative 81, the Entheogenic Plant and Fungi Policy Act of 2020, with 74 percent of the vote. The measure will have police treat natural plant medicines (entheogens) as their lowest law enforcement priority. The measure also asks the city's top prosecutor and its US Attorney to not prosecute such cases.

"Initiative 81's success was driven by grassroots support from DC voters. We are thrilled that DC residents voted to support common sense drug policy reforms that help end part of the war on drugs while ensuring that DC residents benefiting from plant and fungi medicines are not police targets," Decriminalize Nature DC Chairwoman Melissa Lavasani said in a press release.

And on the West Coast, Oregon voters didn't just decriminalize drugs, they also passed Measure 109, the Psilocybin Services Act, with 56 percent of the vote. It will create a program to allow the administration of psilocybin products, such as magic mushrooms, to adults 21 and over for therapeutic purposes. People will be allowed to buy, possess, and consume psilocybin at a psilocybin services center, but only after undergoing a preparation session and under the supervision of a psilocybin service facilitator.

Altogether, a stellar night for drug reform at the ballot box. Marijuana legalization continues its inexorable advance across the land, and new fronts are now open on psychedelics and broader drug decriminalization. A few more bricks fell from the wall of drug prohibition this Election Day.

Initiatives 2020 -- Legalization Sweep, Psychedelic Sweep, Medical Marijuana, Decrim

Before Drug War Chronicle writer Phil Smith turned in for the night yesterday, marijuana legalization initiatives had passed in New Jersey and Arizona. Oregon had decriminalized all drugs, and legalized psilocybin psychotherapy. DC's Decriminalize Nature init for entheogenic plants had passed. And Mississippi and South Dakota had passed medical marijuana.

It got better, with legalization states now also including South Dakota (!) and Montana, a political breakthrough in red and reddish states. The Chronicle will post a piece soon, but I'm noting it here in the meanwhile.

Washington, DC, Approves Natural Entheogen Initiative

Voters in the nation's capital have overwhelmingly approved an initiative to effectively decriminalize the cultivation, use, possession, and distribution of natural psychedelics, such as ayahuasca, magic mushrooms, and peyote. According to unofficial election results, the measure was winning with 76% of the vote.

Initiative 81, the Entheogenic Plant and Fungi Policy Act of 2020, would have police treat natural plant medicines (entheogens) as their lowest law enforcement priority. The measure also asks the city's top prosecutor and its US Attorney to not prosecute such cases.

"Initiative 81's success was driven by grassroots support from DC voters. We are thrilled that DC residents voted to support common sense drug policy reforms that help end part of the war on drugs while ensuring that DC residents benefiting from plant and fungi medicines are not police targets," Decriminalize Nature DC Chairwoman Melissa Lavasani said in a press release.

Biden Says Tough Drug Policies Were "A Mistake," German Parliament Rejects Marijuana Legalization, More... (11/2/20)

A New Jersey bill to ensure workers' compensation covers medical marijuana advances, a Caribbean island nation embraces psychedelic therapies and wellness, and more.

The Democratic presidential contender apologizes for anti-drug bills in the 1990s. (Creative Commons)
Medical Marijuana

New Jersey Medical Marijuana Workers' Compensation Bill Advances. The Assembly Appropriations Committee passed A1708 on Monday, which would require employers and insurance carriers to "provide for coverage for costs associated with the medical use of cannabis" for workers' compensation claimants. The bill now heads for an Assembly floor vote.

Drug Policy

Biden Says Anti-Drug Policies Harmed Black Communities and It Was a ‘Mistake’ to Support Them. Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden is addressing his past support for tough crime and drug policies, saying the Black community was "really hurt" by them. "It was a mistake, and I’ve been trying to change it since then." He pointed to reducing the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity as one way he has attempted to make amends. "There’s so much we can do. And by the way, it’s because we’ve learned so damn much more," he said. "Look, unlike Trump, when I make a mistake I admit it. I admit it. And we can make it better. And I think the public is with us, I really do."

International

German Parliament Rejects Marijuana Legalization. The Bundestag has rejected a bill that would have created a "strictly controlled" adult-use legal marijuana market. The defeat came even as most Bundestag members belong to parties that favor some form of marijuana law reform, but opposition parties could not reach agreement on how to do it. The bill that failed was filed by the Greens, but had only the support of the Left Party.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines Okays Psychedelic Program. The Caribbean island nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines has approved a measure that will allow for the "cultivation, research, processing, and prescription of psychedelic plant-based compounds including psilocybin, ibogaine, peyote, ketamine, dimethyltryptamine, ayahuasca and sassafras" for the purpose of psychedelic therapy. The country has already granted license to three companies to pursue research and wellness with psychedelics.

(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org's 501(c)(4) lobbying nonprofit, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also pays the cost of maintaining this website. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.

Drug Reform Measures on Tuesday's Ballot [FEATURE]

Although the questions of whether Donald Trump is driven out of office and whether the Democrats sweep to control of the Senate are dominating the discourse as we head toward Tuesday, there are other items for people to be voting on, too. Those include drug policy-related items in a half-dozen states and the nation's capital. And there's one bad initiative to reverse sentencing reforms.

As we prepare for a tumultuous Election Day, here's a brief review of them, and of what the polls say their prospects are:

Arizona -- Marijuana Legalization

Proposition 207: The Smart & Safe Arizona Actwould legalize marijuana for people 21 and over and allow for home grows of up to six plants. The state would regulate a legal marijuana market with a 16% tax on retail sales. Polling has been variable enough to make backer nervous, with several recent polls showing the measure in the mid-50s, but another recent poll putting it at 45.6%, with 34.2% opposed and 19% undecided. If that latter poll is accurate, Prop 207 needs at least a quarter of those undecideds to break in its favor.

ANTI-REFORM: California -- Sentencing Reform Rollback

The ballot title for Proposition 20, "Restricts Parole for Non-Violent Offenders. Authorizes Felony Sentences for Certain Offenses Currently Treated Only as Misdemeanors," pretty much says it all. The measure is an effort to roll back sentencing reforms by both the legislature (AB 109 in 201) and two voter-passed initiatives, Proposition 47 (2014), and Proposition 57 (2016). All of those measures were designed to reduce the state's prison population; this one would increase it at a cost of tens of millions of dollars a year. A late September Survey USA poll had support for Prop 20 at 35%, with 23% opposed and 43% undecided.

Mississippi -- Medical Marijuana

Mississippians for Compassionate Care placed Initiative 65 on the ballot as a full-fledged medical marijuana measure, prompting the state legislature to propose its own watered-down version, , which, among other things, limits smoking medical marijuana to terminally ill patients. An had support for medical marijuana at a whopping 81%, and voters preferring Initiative 65 (52%) over Initiative 65A (23%).

Montana -- Marijuana Legalization

Constitutional Initiative 118 and Initiative 190 are complementary marijuana legalization initiatives. I-190 is a statutory initiative that would legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana for adults 21 and over. CI-118 is a constitutional initiative that would allow I-190 to set the minimum age at 21. The initiatives are complementary and work together to establish a careful framework for legalizing marijuana in Montana. The latest polling has the initiative at 54%, trending up from earlier polls.

New Jersey -- Marijuana Legalization

Public Question 1 is a legislatively referred constitutional amendment that would legalize marijuana for people 21 and over and allow for system of regulated sales subject to the state sales tax of 6.625%. It leaves questions such as possession limits and whether to allow home grows up the legislature state regulators. Things are looking good in the Garden State: A series of Brach Eichler pollshas had the measure winning around two-thirds support, while a Fairleigh Dickinson poll released earlier this month had support at 61%.

Oregon -- Drug Decriminalization

The groundbreaking Measure 110 would decriminalize the possession of personal use amounts of all drugs and use revenues from legal marijuana sales to help fund expanded drug treatment. People caught with drugs could either pay a $100 fine or complete a health assessment. Distribution of such drugs would remain criminalized. There is no polling to point to, but the measure has lots of money and a bevy of endorsements, including the state Democratic Party.

Oregon -- Therapeutic Psilocybin

Measure 109, the Psilocybin Services Act, would create a program to allow the administration of psilocybin products, such as magic mushrooms, to adults 21 and over for therapeutic purposes. People would be allowed to buy, possess, and consume psilocybin at a psilocybin services center, but only after undergoing a preparation session and under the supervision of a psilocybin service facilitator. The only known poll is more than a year old and had it in a dead heat, with 47% support and 46% opposed.

South Dakota -- Medical Marijuana

The Measure 26 medical marijuana initiative would allow patients with debilitating medical conditions to possess up to three ounces of marijuana and grow up to three plants. The initiative also establishes a state medical marijuana program with dispensaries, licensed cultivators, and testing operations. A late October poll has the measure winning handily with 74% in support.

South Dakota -- Marijuana Legalization

Constitutional Amendment A would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by people 21 and over and allow for the home cultivation of up to three plants in jurisdictions with no retail marijuana outlets. It also envisions a legal marijuana market with a sales tax of 15% and requires the state legislature to pass laws providing for medical marijuana and hemp by next spring. A late October pollhad the measure winning 51% to 44% with 5% undecided.

Washington, DC -- Natural Psychedelic De Facto Decriminalization

Initiative 81, the Entheogenic Plant and Fungi Policy Act of 2020, would have police treat the non-commercial cultivation, distribution, possession, and use of natural plant medicines (entheogens) as their lowest law enforcement priority. The measure also asks the city's top prosecutor and its US Attorney to not prosecute such cases. It looks likely to win. The measure has been endorsed by the DC Democratic Party, and according to a September FM3 poll, when read the ballot language, 60 percent of likely voters supported it. That figure jumped to 64 percent when respondents were given a plain-language explanation of the measure. The initiative is also well-financed, with the New Approach PAC kicking in nearly half a million dollars. There are no registered opposition campaign committees.

The Psychedelic Revolution is Coming to the Ballot Box -- This Year [FEATURE]

The psychedelic renaissance that has been emerging in recent years will finally get a chance to be ratified by voters in November. On one side of the country, Oregon will be voting on an initiative to legalize the strictly regulated therapeutic use of psilocybin, while on the other side of the country, Washington, DC will be voting on an initiative that essentially (but not formally) decriminalizes a whole range of plant- or fungi-based psychoactive substances, from ayahuasca to peyote and magic mushrooms.

The measures build on nascent efforts to get city governments to ease access to psychedelics, moves that have so far seen success in Denver, which in 2019 made possession of psilocybin mushrooms the lowest law enforcement priority, and Oakland, Santa Cruz, and Ann Arbor, which have followed this year. Most -- but not all -- of this activity is taking place under the rubric of Decriminalize Nature, which describes its mission as "to improve human health and well-being by decriminalizing and expanding access to entheogenic plants and fungi through political and community organizing, education, and advocacy."

The Oregon initiative, Measure 109, isn't part of that. Also known as the Psilocybin Services Act, it would create a program to allow the administration of psilocybin products, such as magic mushrooms, to adults 21 and over for therapeutic purposes. People would be allowed to buy, possess, and consume psilocybin at a psilocybin services center, but only after undergoing a preparation session and under the supervision of a psilocybin service facilitator.

The measure would direct the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to develop a program and create regulations for it within two years. The OHA would also be responsible for determining who could be licensed as a facilitator and what qualifications and training they would need, as well as creating a code of professional conduct for facilitators. And the OHA would also set dosage standards and come up with rules for labeling and packaging.

The measure also bars the establishment of psilocybin service centers within residential areas inside city or town limits and gives local governments the ability to ban them in unincorporated areas within their jurisdictions.

The initiative is the brainchild of Portland psychotherapists Tom and Sheri Eckert, who formed the Oregon Psilocybin Society in 2016 and are the co-chief petitioners for the measure. Unlike the broader psychedelic reform movement, their goal is strictly limited to therapeutic ends.

"We see psilocybin therapy as an end in itself. We see the measure as a template and we plan to help organize the new profession and spread the template in the years to come," Tom Eckert said in an email interview.

"A growing body of research suggests that 'psilocybin' -- a natural compound found in many species of mushrooms -- can, as part of therapy, help relieve a variety of mental health issues, including depression, existential anxiety, addictions, and the lingering effects of trauma," Eckert explained. "Psilocybin therapy demonstrates an excellent safety record and often achieves lasting results after just one or two psilocybin sessions."

While the campaign has an impressive list of endorsers, including Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), the state Democratic Party, four state senators, and a raft of state and national social justice, civil rights, and drug reform groups, it is also catching flak from some in the Decriminalize Nature movement.

In a Facebook post, Decriminalize Nature Portland lambasted Measure 109: "This initiative would create one more medical model which serves the privileged members in society and makes it harder for the most vulnerable people to heal. The cost and hard-to-access system being created by M109 would make it very difficult for lower income people, indigenous communities, immigrants, undocumented people, people who cannot afford an ID, and non-English speaking populations to gain entry into the closed and privileged system being created by this measure. We are concerned about the implications of an elite group of beneficiaries putting a free medicine that grows naturally out of the ground behind a paywall," the group said.

"The greatest danger of M109 is that it would create a special class of permit-holders who would be motivated to lobby to prevent progressive measures such as those passed in Denver, Oakland, Santa Cruz and Ann Arbor, which are designed to enable access to the most vulnerable people by enabling them to grow, gather, gift, and share their own entheogenic plants and fungi," they argued.

When asked how the campaign responds to critiques like that from Decriminalize Nature Portland, Eckert was terse and blunt: "We don't," he said.

(It should be noted that at the same time Oregonians are voting on the psilocybin initiative, they are also voting on Measure 110, which would decriminalize the possession of personal use amounts of all drugs -- including psychedelics.)

Instead, the campaign is relying on a big budget, support from medical figures, and a lack of organized opposition to find a path to victory. The campaign has raised nearly $3 million, with more than $2.5 million of that coming from the New Approach PAC, which supports marijuana and drug reform efforts around the country, and one of whose major donors is David Bronner of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps.

"We are extremely appreciative of the support extended by the whole Bronner family," Eckert said. "David is intimately involved as part of our executive committee and is a great friend. Dr. Bronner's is a towering example of a conscious company and steward of the Earth."

Will Measure 109 win in November? The only known poll on the issue, from DHM Research in January 2019, had it in a dead heat, with 47 percent in favor and 46 percent opposed. Eckert said the campaign has done internal polling but didn't reveal any results. "What I can tell you is that it's close," he said. "Back in 2015, when we first took aim at 2020, this was basically 'mission impossible.' Now we have a real and historic opportunity and we're excited to finish the job."

Back on the East Coast, residents of the nation's capital will be voting on Initiative 81, the Entheogenic Plant and Fungi Policy Act of 2020. That measure would have police treat the non-commercial cultivation, distribution, possession, and use of natural plant medicines (entheogens) as their lowest law enforcement priority. The measure also ask the city's top prosecutor and its US Attorney to not prosecute such cases.

It looks likely to win. The measure has been endorsed by the DC Democratic Party, and according to a September FM3 poll, when read the ballot language, 60 percent of likely voters supported it. That figure jumped to 64 percent when respondents were given a plain-language explanation of the measure.

The initiative is also well-financed, with the New Approach PAC kicking in nearly half a million dollars. There are no registered opposition campaign committees.

For Initiative 81's chief petitioner and campaigns spokesperson Melissa Lavasani, the measure is an outgrowth of her own personal story.

"How I got here was that I healed myself from post-partum depression with psychedelics," she said in a phone interview. "I had no mental health issues like that before, nor did I have any experience with psychedelics. I had an image of psychedelics shaped by propaganda. But then I listened to Joe Rogan when he had [mushroom maestro] Paul Stamets on. My husband grew up in the South and he said it was common to pick mushrooms and eat them, and he said the podcast made a lot of sense. So we decided to give it a try," she related.

"I was insistent on not taking pharmaceutical antidepressants because I saw one friend take his life on them and saw others have their personalities changed. I was a career woman and growing my family. I had a lot to lose, but I tried microdosing, and within a few days I was shocked at how quickly it worked. I was interacting differently with people and the change was so profound," Lavasani continued.

"At the same time, I was watching the Denver magic mushroom campaign -- and Oakland and Santa Cruz quickly followed -- and got inspired. My husband worked for a city council member, and DC was on the forefront of marijuana reform, so why not be a leader on psychedelic reform?"

"I never thought I would be doing this, but this issue is extremely important. How many people in my demographic are on medications? When you did into the research, you see these therapies are extremely effective, so I asked why aren' we acting on this. Our health care system doesn't address these serious mental health issues."

Lavasani acknowledged that passage of the measure would chip only a few flakes from the façade of drug prohibition, but said you have to start somewhere.

"Our measure is a very small step, it's just asking for the Metro police to make it the lowest law enforcement priority so that someone cultivating psilocybin or other substances at home is provided a layer of protection knowing the police won't came after them. I lived in fear and secrecy because I was in possession of a controlled substance. I don't want others to have to do that," she said.

"We are limited in the District because of congressional oversight," Lavasani explained. "We've been talking to allies in Congress while campaigning, and if we win, and the Democrats take the majority in the Senate, we can get restrictive riders removed, and then we can take it further.

"This campaign is a good start, but there's a lot more work to do," she said. "We're okay with it being a first step. When we start talking about psychedelics, the first thing the black community thinks of is PCP. We have to undo a lot of that, so we're out in the community talking to people about plant medicines and talking about what kind of infrastructure we need to stay safe."

The measure's endorsement by the DC Democratic Party showed how attitudes are changing, and quickly, Lavasani said.

"This was a safe yes for the DC Democrats," she noted. "They learned a lesson from cannabis reform -- when it happened it happened very quickly. You know, police reform is on the top of everyone's list right now, and this is the only thing on the ballot that touches on that. The majority of the party understood that the small step we're taking is a positive step toward ending the war on drugs. It's a no brainer -- we all know why it exists and it's time for us to make a change."

For David Bronner, both the Oregon and the DC initiatives are part of a broader push for psychedelic liberation -- and not just natural plant psychedelics.

"In my book, it's strategic because LSD has the most baggage and is the end game, but it's my favorite psychedelic," said Bronner. "'Plant medicines that you can grow naturally resonate with voters, and key stakeholders in the Decriminalize Nature movement definitely favor natural plant medicines versus synthetic psychedelics. I'm a fan of all of them and have experienced the incredible healing and spiritual power of both. It's important to note that the incredible clinical research with synthetic psilocybin at Johns Hopkins for end of life, anxiety, depression, and addiction is supporting the Decriminalize Nature movement," he added.

And this year's psychedelic initiatives are just the beginning, he said.

"Our hope in future election cycles, is to combine broad based treatment not jail and decriminalization (Measure 110 in Oregon) with the Decriminalize Nature ethos where the cutoffs for plant medicines are much higher or eliminated, and that also has a therapeutic psychedelic program like Measure 109 in Oregon, basically combining all three approaches into single state wide ballot measures in Washington and maybe Colorado in 2022," Bronner said.

But first, the movement needs to rack up a couple of victories this November.

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