Drug Reform: 2020 Election

A number of drug reforms were passed in the 2020 election. Montana, along with Arizona, South Dakota, and New Jersey, voted to legalize recreational marijuana use. South Dakota and Mississippi voted to establish medical marijuana programs. Washington D.C. voted to decriminalize the use of entheogenic plants and fungi, which includes magic mushrooms. Oregon approved a measure which will create a psilocybin mushroom services program, allowing therapies using these mushrooms and fungi. Finally, Oregon also approved a measure to decriminalize the possession of any controlled substance, including cocaine and heroin.

Marijuana Legalization Initiative — Montana I-190

  • Montana I-190, the Marijunana Legalization Initiative, was passed by a vote of 56.88% in the State of Montana. 339,795 people voted yes, while 257,542 voted no.
  • The initiative legalizes the possession and use of marijuana for adults over 21, creates a 20% tax on marijuana sales, requires the Department of Revenue to create rules to regulate marijuana businesses, and allows for marijuana-related crimes to be resentenced or expunged. People will be allowed to possess up to one ounce of marijuana or up to 8 grams of concentrate. Residents may grow up to four plants and four seedlings for personal use inside an enclosed locked space in their residence. The rules take effect January 1, 2021.
  • Supporting the initiative was the campaign New Approach Montana. According to their spokesperson Pepper Peterson, the initiative will create jobs and new revenue for Montana, and allow law enforcement to focus on real crimes. Peterson indicated that their research has consistently shown that the majority of Montanans have always supported the legislation.
  • Former Montana state senator Dave Lewis supported the measure, saying that the additional $50 million dollars of state tax revenue is vital to compensate for the devastating financial losses due to COVID.
  • Another former Montana state senator and founder of the Montana Human Rights Network, Ken Toole, supported the initiative, saying that people need to accept that people use marijuana and that it is much less harmful than other drugs, including alcohol. He claims there have been more marijuana arrests since 2008 than for any other illegal drugs, and more arrests for marijuana than all opiates and methamphetamine combined; legalizing marijuana use would save money in the criminal justice system and generate tax revenue for public services.
  • The Public Lands Coalition, which also supported the measure, pointed out that approximately “50% of the revenue generated from recreational marijuana sales would support state public lands by funding efforts like Habitat Montana. These funds are critical in order to maintain abundant wildlife populations and ensure our outdoor economy continues to thrive.”
  • A committee opposed to the initiative was registered as Wrong for Montana. According to its treasurer, Steve Zabawa, the initiative would create similar harmful issues as to those he sees in Colorado, which according to him include increased traffic accidents, people needing to go to the emergency room, vagrants, and increased black market and regular market activity.
  • Richard Miltenberger, chairman of the Montana State Chamber of Commerce, argued against the initiative, saying that recreational marijuana is detrimental to having a productive and reliable workforce.
  • Two bishops who opposed the initiative expressed concern about “increased teenage use, harmful effects on developing brains, addiction, increased impairment-related transportation accidents and deaths, and other potential public health and safety issues.”
  • Charts with vote results, campaign contributions, and polls can be found here.
  • Arizona, New Jersey, and South Dakota similarly passed measures to legalize recreational use of marijuana.

Medical Marijuana Initiative — South Dakota Measure 26

  • A Medical Marijuana Initiative, Measure 26, was passed in South Dakota by a vote of 69.20%. 260,795 people voted to approve the measure, while 116,051 voted against it.
  • The measure will establish a medical marijuana program for people with a debilitating medical condition. Patients will be allowed to possess three ounces of marijuana, and the Department of Health will set limits on the amount of cannabis products a person may posses. Patients will also be allowed to grow a minimum of three plants, or more as prescribed by a physician.
  • The organizations New Approach South Dakota, and South Dakota for Better Marijuana Laws supported the initiative. Melissa Mentele, of New Approach South Dakota, indicated that people should vote yes out of compassion to those with serious health conditions, including veterans, children with seizures, and cancer patients, so that these people could make the best medical decisions possible for themselves and their conditions.
  • South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, in support of the measure, stated, “Our mission is to reform South Dakota’s harmful and outdated marijuana policies. We believe arresting adults for something objectively safer than alcohol is a wasteful and unjust use of public resources. We also believe patients deserve safe, legal access to medical marijuana.”
  • The South Dakota State Medical Association presented arguments in opposition to the measure. Arguments include the following: marijuana is a hazardous drug and public health concern, it is not FDA-approved, it is federally classified as a schedule I, studies indicate it is highly addictive and may impact short-term memory, it may decrease concentration and attention span, it may alter motor control, coordination, and judgment, it may have a negative impact on lung function, it may generate higher rates of psychosis in patients with a predisposition to schizophrenia, and it may cause brain atrophy and permanently change the structure and physiology of the developing brain. Additionally, it is challenging to monitor and detect overuse in patients.
  • Charts with vote results, campaign contributions, and polls can be found here.
  • Mississippi also passed a measure legalizing medical marijuana.

Entheogenic Plants and Fungus Measure — Washington D.C. Initiative 81

  • The Entheogenic Plants and Fungus Measure, Initiative 81, was passed by 76.30% in Washington D.C. 173,428 people voted yes, and 53,881 voted no.
  • The measure decriminalizes the use of entheogenic plants and fungi. The measure declares that “police shall treat the non-commercial cultivation, distribution, possession, and use of entheogenic plants and fungi among the lowest law enforcement priorities,” and defines “entheogenic plants and fungi as species of plants and fungi that contain ibogaine, dimethyltryptamine, mescaline, psilocybin, or psilocyn.” Relevant plants and fungi include psilocybin mushrooms, or magic mushrooms, peyonte, and iboga. The measure also requests that residents who interact with entheogenic plants and fungi not be prosecuted by the D.C. Attorney General and the U.S. Attorney for D.C.
  • In support of the initiative was Decriminalize Nature D.C., whose field director Nikolas Schiller stated, “D.C. is an important place for us to start dismantling the war on drugs. People need to have access to any healing modality without fear of arrest.”
  • Dr. Mikhail Kogan, Medical Director of the George Washington University Center for Integrative Medicine, provided the following information in support of the measure, “Patients with advanced-stage cancer suffering from treatment resistant anxiety and/or depression experienced significant reduc­tions in both anxiety and depression with improvements of mood following a single guided psilocybin treatment, with no safety concerns or clinically significant adverse events. Other studies demonstrate efficacy of other psychedelic agents to relieve anxiety and stress disorders related to end of life. Therapy with psilocybin is well tolerated by seriously ill patients and, for some, remarkably effective in alleviating non-physical distress. Therapeutic benefits often persist long after any pharmacologic effect of the drug. It is time to support the legitimate therapeutic use of psychedelics.”
  • There was no organization officially opposed to the measure. U.S. Representative Andy Harris of Maryland opposed the measure, stating it was “a bald-faced attempt to just make these very serious, very potent, very dangerous — both short term and long term — hallucinogenic drugs broadly available.”
  • Charts with vote results, campaign contributions, and polls can be found here.

Psilocybin Mushroom Services Program Initiative — Oregon Measure 109

  • The Psylocybin Mushroom Services Program Initiative, Measure 109, was passed by 55.84% in Oregon. 1,179,674 people voted yes, and 933,030 voted no.
  • The measure authorizes the Oregon Health Authority to “create a program to permit licensed service providers to administer psilocybin-producing mushroom and fungi products to individuals 21 years of age or older.” Under the program, clients will be allowed to “purchase, possess, and consume psilocybin at a psilocybin service center and under the supervision of a psilocybin service facilitator after undergoing a preparation session.” The Oregon Health Authority will determine “who is eligible to be licensed as a facilitator, determine what qualifications, education, training, and exams are needed, and create a code of professional conduct for facilitators. OHA would set psilocybin dosage standards and labeling and packaging rules.”
  • The Oregon Psilocybin Society (OPS) campaigned in support of the measure. The OPS, along with Dr. Adie Rae (assistant scientist at Legacy Rsearch Institute) and Dr. Rachel Knox (chair for Oregon Cannabis Commission), claim there is clinical research showing that “psilocybin-assisted therapy is safe and uniquely effective,” and that it will be especially useful for treatments for suicide, treatment-resistant depression and anxiety, PTSD, and addiction to drugs, alcohol, and nicotine.
  • U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer also supports the initiative, stating that the measure, which was developed by therapeutic and mental health experts, will bring psilocybin therapy treatment to Oregon “through a licensed, research-based system that supports and protects those in urgent need.”
  • Dr. Saul Levin (chief executive officer of the American Psychiatric Association) opposed the measure, saying that medical treatment should be determined by evidence-based research, and not by ballot.
  • Dr. Nicole Cirino (president of the Oregon Psychiatric Physician Association) opposed the measure due to concerns about lack of data and using Oregon citizens as guinea pigs for this new treatment.
  • Opposition by the Oregon Psychiatric Physicians Association indicated that psilocybin could have negative interactions with prescription medications.
  • Zave Forster (Decriminalize Nature Portland) also opposed the measure, claiming that it would create a program that would only benefit the upper class due to the costs of the program.
  • Charts with vote results, campaign contributions, and polls can be found here.

Drug Decriminalization and Addiction Treatment Initiative — Oregon Measure 110

  • The Drug Decriminalization and Addiction Treatment Initiative, Measure 110, was passed by 58.82% in Oregon. 1,243,057 people voted yes, and 870,250 voted no.
  • The measure decriminalizes the non-commercial possession of a controlled substance, with a maximum $100 fine, and will use money from marijuana tax revenue and state prison savings to establish a drug addiction treatment and recovery program. Possession of substances such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamines will be reclassified from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class E violation ($100 fine or health assessment required within 45 days).
  • The organization More Treatment, A Better Oregon campaigned to support the measure. Addiction and mental specialists, criminal justice directors, and emergency physicians agree that the measure will focus on providing help and recovery options to those that need it, rather than incarcerating and punishing them. Funding for arrests and incarceration would be used to create treatment options and a “range of services to help people get their lives back on track.”
  • The opposition agrees that while people suffering from addiction need help, the measure would instead lead to increased drug use. The Oregon Council for Behavioral Health additionally claims the measure “falls short of addressing the wide-ranging impacts on access to treatment and recovery.” The organization Oregon Recovers claimed the measure would dismantle “one system of intervention before building a new system… [and] reduce court referrals to treatment providers which will lead to closures of addiction treatment facilities across Oregon at a time when the state already ranks virtually last in access to treatment.”
  • Charts with vote results, campaign contributions, and polls can be found here.
Glenn is the Lead Operations Research Analyst at The Digital Momentum with experience in research, statistical data analysis and interview techniques. A holder of degree in Economics. A true specialist in quantitative and qualitative research.

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