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Oregon Therapeutic Psilocybin Legalization Campaign Has A New Signature Strategy Amid Coronavirus

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An Oregon campaign to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for therapeutic purposes is within striking distance to qualify for the state’s November ballot. But with a deadline to submit signatures fast approaching, activists announced on Monday that they will be taking new steps to ensure success.

So far, organizers have collected more than 130,000 signatures for Initiative Petition 34, which would make Oregon the first jurisdiction in the U.S. to implement a therapeutic legalization model for the psychedelic. While that raw total is more than is required, the signatures haven’t been certified by the state and the campaign is aiming to collect an additional 15,000 signatures as a buffer against invalid submissions ahead of the July 2 deadline.

Tom Eckert, one of the chief petitioners behind the measure, said in a press release that the COVID-19 outbreak will likely exacerbate mental health issues that the initiative aims to address, demonstrating the need for the campaign to push ahead and develop alternative strategies to gather additional signatures.

“The stressors associated with the pandemic will undoubtedly push [rates of mental illness] even higher, which further highlights the importance of this initiative,” he said. “The pandemic also presents real challenges for our campaign in collecting the remaining signatures we need to make the ballot in November. Thankfully, our networks and supporters are energized and mobilizing—they understand what is at stake here, and we’re counting on that enthusiasm to overcome the obstacles we face.”

While in-person signature collection is no longer a viable option during a time of coronavirus social distancing and stay-at-home orders, the campaign will be hosting group video chat organizing calls, orchestrating texting and social media communications and calling prospective voters on the phone. The aim is to encourage residents to fill out petitions and mail them in to organizers.

The Yes On IP 34 campaign shared some social media plugs in an email blast on Sunday, touting mentions from authors Michael Pollan and Tim Ferriss, as well as the wellness company Dr. Bronner’s, which is also providing funding for the initiative, as well as several others across the country.

Water Avenue Coffee also rolled out a special blend, dubbed River Trip, and a portion of the proceeds from its sales will be donated to the campaign.

“Qualifying for the November ballot will require a concerted effort from a broad base of volunteers and partners, as well as from Oregon voters who will have to step up and put a little more time in than would typically be necessary to sign this petition,” Sheri Eckert, another chief petitioner, said. “We’ve been working for years to build a formidable coalition of healthcare professionals, veterans, and advocates of all kinds who believe that this psilocybin therapy initiative offers an important therapeutic option for many Oregonians and we will not let the current challenges discourage our efforts.”

Activists initially announced that the campaign had been impacted by the pandemic last month. It appears to have gathered an additional 2,000 signatures since then.

“The Oregon initiative is so critically important. It’s time to create the structures within society for safely using psilocybin in a responsible manner for maximum benefit, as this is a uniquely powerful tool for healing,” mycologist Paul Stamets, who sits on the campaign’s board, said.

A separate campaign in the state that’s backing a measure to decriminalize drug possession and increase substance misuse treatment said last month that is has gathered enough raw signatures to qualify for the ballot, though those signatures have yet to be validated and advocates similarly hope to collect more in the weeks to come.

Across the U.S., drug policy reform campaigns are feeling the sting of the coronavirus outbreak.

California activists for a campaign to amend the state’s legal cannabis program also requested a digital signature option since in-person collection is not possible. A separate effort to put psilocybin legalization on the state ballot ended last week after activists failing to meet a signature deadline.

In Washington, D.C., advocates for a measure to decriminalize psychedelics asked the mayor and local lawmakers to accept online signatures for their ballot petition.

An effort to legalize medical cannabis in Nebraska is facing similar signature gathering challenges. And in Missouri, an adult-use marijuana legalization campaign is officially over for the year due to the health crisis.

Idaho activists announced that they are suspending their ballot campaign to legalize medical cannabis, though they are still “focusing on distributing petitions through online download at IdahoCann.co and encouraging every volunteer who has downloaded a petition to get them turned in to their county clerk’s office by mail, regardless of how many signatures they have collected.”

In Arizona, a legalization campaign is petitioning the state Supreme Court to instruct the secretary of state to allow individuals to sign ballot petitions digitally using an existing electronic system that is currently reserved for individual candidates seeking public office.

North Dakota advocates said earlier this month that they are suspending their campaign to put marijuana legalization on the November ballot due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Montana advocates filed a lawsuit against the state last month, urging officials to allow electronic signature gathering for a measure to legalize marijuana for adult use. State officials filed a response opposing the request last week.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) conceded that the legalization push in the legislature is “effectively over” for 2020. He also said that the policy change may prove too complicated for lawmakers to take up remotely via video conferencing.

Top Montana Officials Oppose Marijuana Campaign’s Lawsuit For Electronic Signature Gathering

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/Mushroom Observer.

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