Legalizing it: putting cannabis and psychedelics to a vote

Here are a few places where activists and lawmakers are working to get cannabis, mushrooms, and other controlled substances on the ballot

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While some legalization and decriminalization campaigns have stalled out in recent months—including the one in Missouri that was called off when organizers realized there was no practical way to collect enough signatures thanks to social distancing—others are ramping up.

Here are a few places where activists and lawmakers are working to get cannabis, psychedelics, and other controlled substances on the ballot.

Oregon

Two separate campaigns—one in support of legalizing psilocybin for therapeutic use and another to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of drugs and expand addiction and recovery services—have teamed up. Sam Chapman, who heads up the psilocybin campaign (IP 34) sent an email to supporters, asking them to sign the petition in favour of putting the decriminalization initiative (IP 44) on the state’s November ballot.

“Initiative Petition 44—The Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act—will greatly expand addiction and recovery services using a portion of existing marijuana revenues,” Chapman wrote. “It will also end the cruel and ineffective policy of making criminals of people struggling with addiction by decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of drugs. This measure will be a game-changer. But only if it gets on the ballot.”

Montana

A group called New Approach Montana launched a statewide signature drive this past weekend in support of a pair of ballot initiatives. The first, I-190, would legalize cannabis in the state for adults as well as establish a regulatory framework for cultivation and sales. The second, CI-118, would set the legal minimum age for purchasing, consuming, or possessing cannabis at 21. 

In a reflection of the times, New Approach Montana is approaching its campaign with measures taken to address the difficulty of gathering signatures during a pandemic.

In a May 7 news release, the campaign’s political director, Pepper Petersen, is quoted as saying, “As our state reopens for business, we must also reopen for democracy. Our signature drive will allow Montana voters to exercise their constitutional right to a ballot initiative in a safe and responsible way.” 

New Approach Montana’s protocols include the following rules, per the May 7 news release: 

  • Circulators must wear masks at all times except when on a break; 
  • Disposable single-use wrapped pens will be provided to signers and discarded after each signature; 
  • Disposable single-use gloves will be provided to signers and discarded after each signature; 
  • Circulators must be provided disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer while in the field; 
  • Circulators will provide tables for voters to use for signing petitions so that circulators can witness the signature while maintaining a six-foot distance requirement; 
  • Circulators will be issued a single-use, disposable clear plastic bag each day that contains their petitions, pens, gloves, masks, and other supplies for the day (backpacks or other reusable storage solutions are not allowed for any petition supplies); 
  • Canvassers must wear gloves to handle petitions that have been touched by members of the public.

The campaign must gather 25,468 signatures for I-190 and 50,936 signatures for CI-118 in order to qualify for the November ballot, with all signatures submitted to county clerks by June 19.

Minnesota

Legislation introduced by House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (D) would allow adult Minnesotans to grow up to eight cannabis plants at home for personal use, and would expunge most cannabis convictions.

“Minnesotans have been loud and clear that our current cannabis laws are doing more harm than good,” Winkler said in a statement. “By creating a regulatory framework we can address the harms caused by cannabis and establish a more sensible set of laws to improve our health care and criminal justice systems and ensure better outcomes for communities.”

New Zealand

As we reported last week, when Kiwis go to the polls on September 19, they will vote yes or no in a referendum on recreational-cannabis legalization.

If passed, the new legislation would allow people aged 20 and older to buy up to 14 grams of dried cannabis per day from licensed outlets. They will also be able to grow up to two plants (with a maximum of four plants per household), and share up to 14 grams of dried cannabis (or its equivalent) with another person aged 20 or over.

Canada

Thanks to a petition that quickly garnered the 500 signatures required for presentation to the House of Commons, this August will see Green Party MP Paul Manly officially make the case for the legalization of psychedelic plants, including psilocybin mushrooms.

As Toronto lawyer Rick Moscone told us, however, if and when psychedelics are legalized in Canada, it is likely to be for medicinal purposes and not recreational use.

“The hurdle for legalizing psychedelics is the powerful reactions that result from their usage,” Moscone said. “I don’t think governments will be comfortable allowing recreational use of such products without the oversight of a doctor.”

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