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Portland Activists Begin Gathering Signatures For Psychedelics Decriminalization Measure

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Activists in Portland, Oregon have officially started collecting signatures for a measure to locally decriminalize a wide range of psychedelics such as psilocybin and ayahuasca.

The proposed ballot initiative, which was submitted in October, would prohibit the use of city funds to assist in the enforcement of laws against personal possession and cultivation of entheogenic plants and fungi.

The initiative stipulates that Portland cannot adopt any laws prohibiting or regulating the possession, cultivation or distribution of these substances for personal use.

Decriminalize Nature Portland, the group behind the campaign, needs to collect 37,638 valid signatures from voters in order to qualify for the ballot. Holly Sullivan, a volunteer coordinator for the group, told Marijuana Moment that their plan is to gather more than the needed total by the deadline of July 6 using “a combination of diligent volunteers and full-time paid organizers.”

“The response so far has been overwhelmingly positive, and weā€™re looking to expand our forces and our team in order to mobilize and inspire,” she said. “Weā€™re so grateful to the people of Portland for getting us this far on 100 percent people power.”

Part of the reason the group is able to get started with signature gathering is because after submitting their ballot title for approval, there were no challenges to the language, which could have caused a delay. A city auditor confirmed that to Decriminalize Nature Portland earlier this month and said they were cleared to submit cover and signature sheets for approval.

Now the group is seeking volunteers to pick up the sheets, get training and help in the signature gathering process.

In an email blast on Friday, they invited people to help organize and collect the signatures. “We need your help!” the group wrote. “Let’s do this people.”

Via Decriminalize Nature Portland.

Portland is one of about 100 cities across the U.S. where psychedelics decriminalization is being considered, with activists at varying stages as they coordinate with the national Decriminalize Nature organization.

Organizers from other Oregon municipalitiesā€”including Eugene, Springfield, Roseburg and Detroitā€” gathered last month at a conference focused on bringing the decriminalization movement to their towns. “After a walking meditation and integration session, everyone got down to business discussing organizational strategies, canvassing techniques, and initiative drafting in three breakout tables,” says the email blast from the Portland group.

Interest in reforming psychedelics policies spiked after Denver became the first city to decriminalize psilocybin, followed by a unanimous City Council vote in Oakland to decriminalize a broader group of entheogenic substances, including ibogaine and mescaline.

There are also statewide efforts underway, with organizers in Oregon in the process of collecting signatures for a measure to legalize psilocybin for therapeutic purposes. Another campaign is working to decriminalize possession of all drugs and increase funding for substance misuse treatment in the state. And in California, activists are hoping to put the question of legalizing psilocybin mushrooms before voters in 2020.

While there’s been far less talk about psychedelics at the national level, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said at a town hall event earlier this month that she’s supportive of the grassroots movement to decriminalize the substances and that she plans to reintroduce legislation focusing on psychedelics research.

Presidential candidate Andrew Yang similarly said he supports loosening federal restrictions on psychedelics to better explore their medical potential.

Andrew Yang Wants To Make Psychedelic Mushrooms ā€˜More Freely Availableā€™

Photo elements courtesy of carlosemmaskype and Apollo.

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Politics

Congresswoman Wants Ban On DC Marijuana Sales Lifted Through Coronavirus Legislation

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A congresswoman is calling on the government to end a policy prohibiting Washington, D.C. from legal marijuana sales, arguing that the jurisdiction is in particular need of tax revenue from cannabis commerce due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) has repeatedly condemned the congressional rider barring the District of Columbia from allowing retail sales that has been extended each year since 2014, shortly after local voters approved a ballot measure to legalize low-level possession and home cultivation. But given the need for resources to combat the pandemic, she said a reversal of the provision should be included in the next COVID-related relief bill.

“At this moment of unparalleled need, D.C. should be able to collect tax revenue from all available sources, like every other jurisdiction, including from recreational marijuana, which is believed to be widely used in the District,” the congresswoman said in a press release on Friday, adding that D.C. was shorted in the last stimulus because Congress treated it as a territory rather than a state.

“While I am working for a retroactive fix in the next coronavirus bill, it is imperative that Congress also repeal the D.C. recreational marijuana commercialization rider in the next bill to help D.C. shore up its finances,” she said. “It is beyond unreasonable that congressional interference keeps only the District from commercializing recreational marijuana, while all other jurisdictions are free to do so.”

“Bringing the District in line with other jurisdictions would create a critical source of tax revenue in our time of need.”

Last year, the House approved an appropriations bill that excluded the D.C. rider, but it was included in the Senate version and ultimately made its way into the final package that the president signed. The cannabis commerce ban was also included in President Trump’s budget proposal earlier this year.

“True to form, Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton continues to be one of the best allies to the cannabis reform movement,” Justin Strekal, political director for NORML, told Marijuana Moment. “During this unprecedented COVID-19 outbreak, it is critical that lawmakers analyze and reform any and every aspect of public policy to mitigate the health crisis and build a foundation for a strong recovery.”

“As the majority of states that regulate cannabis have deemed the industry essential to the continued functioning of their jurisdictions, the continued congressional prohibition of the District of Columbia enacting it’s own adult-use program becomes even more ridiculous,” he added.

Norton, in an interview about her push, said that the congressionally mandated prohibition on sales doesn’t prevent people from accessing cannabis but does block the city from collecting tax revenue.

“You can buy two ounces but, by the way you’ve got to do that on the black market,” she told WUSA-TV. “But there’s nobody to tax it. And I’m simply trying to get the taxes the District is due for merchandise, in this case marijuana that’s being consumed readily in the District of Columbia.”

Legislative priorities for Congress have shifted significantly as lawmakers attempt to address the outbreak, and that’s meant putting some reform efforts on hold. However, the issue isn’t being ignored entirely, and it’s possible that other members may look to attach modest marijuana proposals to additional coronavirus legislation.

For example, Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) said this week that U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs policy preventing its doctors from recommending medical cannabis in legal states puts service members at risk in Massachusetts because the state is shuttering recreational shops (but not medical dispensaries) and some veterans fear registering as patients out of concern that they could lose federal benefits.

Eleven senators wrote a letter to Appropriations Committee leadership asking that they allow small cannabis businesses to access federal loans and disaster relief programs. While the lawmakers said it should be enacted through an annual spending bill, advocates have argued that the policy change should be pursued through coronavirus legislation since these businesses are facing challenges just like those experienced by many other companies during the pandemic.

Eleven Senators Push To Let Marijuana Businesses Access Federal Loan Programs

Photo courtesy of WeedPornDaily.

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North Dakota Activists Say Marijuana Legalization Initiative Unlikely In 2020 Due To Coronavirus

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North Dakota activists announced on Thursday that they are suspending their campaign put marijuana legalization on the November ballot due to the coronavirus outbreak.

In a Facebook post, Legalize ND said “we are going to have to face a few hard realities going forward” as businesses are shuttering, public events are being cancelled and individuals are encouraged to shelter in place. The pandemic means in-person signature gathering can’t take place, and the state does not allow for alternative signing options such as by mail or online.

“Due to the virus all of our major avenues for signature collection have been cancelled or indefinitely postponed, and going door to door is not safe for both those knocking and those getting knocked,” the group said. “Businesses will continue to collect, but we don’t want to create another vector for the coronavirus. As a result, at this time if something major doesn’t change we will not be able to make the 2020 ballot.”

Legalize ND said there’s no way for state policies related to signature gathering to be changed ahead of the November election. They needed to collect 13,452 valid signatures from voters before July 6 in order to qualify. In all likelihood, the campaign said it would have to shift its focus to the July 2022 primary election.

“This isn’t the solution we want, but given the situation it is what will have to happen,” the post states. “Stay safe, and hopefully we can make a major push when the quarantine ends.”

The proposed initiative would allow individuals to purchase and possess up to two ounces of cannabis. Unlike a much more far-reaching measure the same group pushed in 2018 that included no possession or cultivation limits, which voters rejected, this version would prohibit home growing, impose a 10 percent excise tax and establish a regulatory body to approve licenses for marijuana businesses.

North Dakota voters approved a medical cannabis initiative in 2016.

The coronavirus outbreak has dealt several blows to drug policy reform efforts in recent weeks.

California activists for campaigns to amend the state’s legal cannabis program and legalize psilocybin mushrooms are asking for a digital signature option.

Likewise 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 toĀ legalize medical cannabisĀ in Nebraska is facing similar signature gathering challenges. A campaign to legalize cannabis in MissouriĀ is also in jeopardy.

In Oregon, advocates forĀ a measure to decriminalize drug possessionĀ and a separateĀ initiative to legalize psilocybin for therapeutic purposesĀ have suspended in-person campaign events amid the pandemic.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) recently conceded that legalization wasĀ ā€œnot likelyā€ going to happen through the budget, as he hoped. Coronavirus shifted legislative priorities, and comprehensive cannabis reform seems to have proved too complicated an issue in the short-term.

Idaho activists announced on Thursday thatĀ they are suspending their campaign, though they are still ā€œfocusing on distributing petitions through online download atĀ IdahoCann.coĀ and encouraging every volunteer who has downloaded a petition to get them turned in to their county clerkā€™s office by mail, regardless of how many signatures they have collected.ā€

Finally, 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 reserved for individual individual candidates seeking public office.

Virginia Groups Push Governor To Amend Marijuana Decriminalization Bill On His Desk

Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

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Arizona Legal Marijuana Campaign Asks Supreme Court To Allow Electronic Signatures Amid Coronavirus

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Several campaigns to put initiatives on Arizona’s November ballotā€”including one to legalize marijuanaā€”are asking the state Supreme Court to allow electronic signature gathering amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has made in-person ballot petitioning all but impossible.

Smart and Safe Arizona, the group behind the cannabis measure, along with three other campaigns, filed a petition with the court on Thursday, requesting that it direct the secretary of state to let them digitally collect signatures. They stressed that the infrastructure already exists, as residents are able to use a system called E-Qual to sign ballot petitions for individual candidates running for office.

While the marijuana campaign has already gathered more than 320,000 signatures, which is well over the required 237,645 signatures for statutory proposals, they have yet to be verified and activists would like to continue collection efforts to ensure that they qualify for the ballot.

In the filing, the groups argued that limiting the E-Qual system to office seekers is unconstitutional. However, state law stipulates that it can only be used for that purpose, so it remains to be seen whether court action will produce the intended result. There was a bill filed last year to expand its utility to allow digital signature gathering for initiatives, but it has not advanced in the legislature.

“Legal access to E-Qual for these citizen initiatives is the right thing for public health and democracy,” attorneys representing the groups said in a statement. “Following Governor Doug Duceyā€™s stay-at-home order issued Monday and current CDC recommendations, gathering hundreds of thousands of signatures on paper, at peopleā€™s homes, or in public spaces, is impossible to do safely and responsibly during this pandemic. E-Qual is a very reasonable remedy.”

The legalization petition would allow individuals 21 and older to possess and purchase cannabis from licensed retailers. People could possess up to an ounce of marijuana at a time and cultivate up to six plants for personal use.

The measure also contains several restorative justice provisions such as allowing individuals with prior marijuana convictions to petition the courts for expungements and establishing a social equity ownership program

Cannabis sales would be taxed at 16 percent. Tax revenue would cover implementation costs and then would be divided among funds for community colleges, infrastructure, a justice reinvestment and public services such as police and firefighters.

The Department of Health Services would be responsible for regulating the program and issuing cannabis business licenses. It would also be tasked with deciding on whether to expand the program to allow for delivery services.

“The Committees have explored potential alternatives, such as mailing petitions to interested persons to circulate within their families,” Smart and Safe Arizona Campaign Manager Stacy Pearson said in a declaration filed with the court. “This, however, is expensive, inefficient, and has no realistic likelihood of permitting the Committeesā€™ to gather large numbers of valid petition signatures.”

The legalization group was joined by campaigns to limit school vouchers, provide sentencing reform and increase taxes on the wealthy to fund public education in the petition. Separately, two other campaignsā€”to enact voting reform and end surprise hospital billingsā€”filed a similar lawsuit in a federal court on Thursday.

Smart and Safe Arizona is not the only drug policy reform campaign to request electronic signature gathering since the COVID-19 outbreak.

Activists in California released a video last month asking officials to allow digital signatures for a petition toĀ revise the stateā€™s adult-use marijuana program. In Washington, D.C., advocates for a measure to decriminalize psychedelics similarly wrote to the mayor and local lawmakers,Ā imploring them to accept online signatures for their ballot petition.

Another California campaign toĀ legalize psilocybin mushroomsĀ is struggling and asking for electronic signature gathering to qualify for the ballot.

Others have generally shut down campaign activities in light of the pandemic, which has resulted in shutter businesses and shelter-in-place orders across the country.

An effort toĀ legalize medical cannabisĀ in Nebraska is facing similar signature gathering challenges. A campaign to legalize cannabis in MissouriĀ is also in jeopardy.

In Oregon, advocates forĀ a measure to decriminalize drug possessionĀ and a separateĀ initiative to legalize psilocybin for therapeutic purposesĀ have suspended in-person campaign events amid the pandemic.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) recently conceded that legalization was ā€œnot likelyā€ going to happen through the budget, as he hoped. Coronavirus shifted legislative priorities, and comprehensive cannabis reform seems to have proved too complicated an issue in the short-term.

Idaho activists announced on Thursday that they are suspending their campaign, though they are still “focusing on distributing petitions through online download atĀ IdahoCann.coĀ and encouraging every volunteer who has downloaded a petition to get them turned in to their county clerkā€™s office by mail, regardless of how many signatures they have collected.ā€

Idaho Activists Suspend Campaign To Legalize Medical Marijuana Due To Coronavirus

Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
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