Psychedelics Advocates Fight to Keep Ballot Initiatives Alive During Pandemic


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Feb 22, 2020
Two major psychedelics reform advocacy groups in Oregon and California are struggling to keep their ballot initiatives alive amidst coronavirus quarantine.

In Oregon, activists have been collecting signatures for the Psilocybin Services Initiative (IP34), a ballot measure to fully legalize psilocybin for psychedelic-assisted therapy. If passed, this initiative would allow licensed businesses to produce psilocybin mushrooms, which could be legally used by adults under medical supervision.

Activists managed to collect nearly 128,000 signatures before “shelter-in-place” measures came into effect. Oregon only requires 112,020 valid signatures to place a measure on a general election ballot, but activists were hoping to collect an additional 15,000 signatures in order to ensure that their measure is a success.

Before any measure can be approved, state officials must verify every single signature on the ballot, and in most cases, thousands of signatures are ruled as invalid. For this reason, activists try to collect more signatures than necessary to ensure that the initiative will still succeed even if a percentage of signatures cannot be validated by election officials.

In a recent social media post, Sam Chapman, campaign manager for the Psilocybin Services Initiative, said that the initiative was “incredibly close to making the ballot, but coronavirus puts all of our progress in jeopardy.” Now that quarantine measures prevent activists from collecting petitions door-to-door, the group has launched a digital campaign to collect additional signatures.

Oregon residents who have not yet signed the petition are being asked to download the petition online, sign it, and mail it in. Activists are also consulting with the Secretary of State to find ways to mail petitions to potential supporters.

“Together, we can put IP34 on the ballot and make history this November by creating the first-ever statewide program for regulated psilocybin therapy in the country,” Chapman said.

In California, activists are asking the state to approve new methods of collecting signatures for ballot initiatives. Decriminalize California has been circulating a petition to legalize psilocybin mushrooms in the Golden State, but the group has yet to collect enough signatures to place the measure on the ballot.

“We're close to a quarter of the 623,212 signatures required,” the group tweeted. “We hope the virus won't be a fatal blow to the campaign.”

Decriminalize California, along with several other advocacy groups, have launched a new petition (you can sign it here) asking Governor Gavin Newsom to revise the signature-gathering process in light of the pandemic. The letter proposes two options: either allow all current initiatives to be placed on the ballot regardless of signature counts, or allow signatures to be collected online. The activists also asked for a 90-day extension from the original deadline of April 21st, 2020.

“It is vital that our democratic processes, including Californians’ constitutionally-protected power of initiative, be insulated from this threat,” the petition reads. “Many consider the pandemic to be a force majeure event; exceptional circumstances require exceptional measures.”

The pandemic is also wreaking havoc on dozens of other drug reform efforts across the country. Activists in Washington DC are seeking an online petition option for their ballot initiative to decriminalize natural psychedelics in the nation's capital. Meanwhile, Nebraska activists have chosen to suspend signature collection for their medical marijuana initiative, and New York's attempt to include adult-use cannabis legalization in its state budget has been set aside due to concerns over the pandemic.

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