Oregon made history on Tuesday in the movement to reconsider the nation’s war on drugs by becoming the first state to decriminalize small amounts of heroin and other street drugs through Measure 110. The state also become the first in the country to legalize psilocybin therapy.
Voters overwhelmingly supported Measure 110, a coup for the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance, the same criminal justice reform group that backed Oregon’s successful marijuana legalization effort in 2014.
Near-final returns showed the measure winning overwhelmingly, 59% to 41%.
Peter Zuckerman, the campaign manager for Measure 110, called the win “a big step forward.”
“Today is a huge day of celebration but the work is not over and we have a lot more work to do to win a better system for everybody,” he said.
Supporters believe U.S. drug policy has filled the country’s jails with nonviolent offenders who need treatment instead of incarceration and has disproportionately affected generations of Black people.
Oregon also legalized the use of psilocybin for therapy with the passage of Measure 109.
Measure 109 passed with 56% of the vote.
Multiple cities have decriminalized the substance, but Oregon will become the first to permit supervised use statewide if that majority holds.
The measure, backed by chief petitioners Sheri and Thomas Eckert, of Beaverton, will allow regulated use of psychedelic mushrooms in a therapeutic setting.
It creates a two-year period during which regulatory details will be worked out, including what qualifications are required of therapists overseeing its use.
The Eckerts, both psychotherapists, told The Oregonian that psilocybin could help people struggling with issues from depression to anxiety to addiction.
Recent research at universities including Johns Hopkins, Imperial College in London and the University of California, Los Angeles, have shown promising results of psilocybin therapy on depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction.
“We need options. And this is a valid therapeutic option that could help thousands of people,” Tom Eckert told The Oregonian in September.
The new law will allow anyone age 21 or older who passes a screening to access the services for “personal development.”
But the law won’t mean that “magic mushrooms” have the same legal status as cannabis. Instead, it will allow psilocybin to be stored and administered at licensed facilities.
Nicotine users in Oregon will face steeper costs starting Jan. 1, after Oregonians voted to set higher cigarette, vape and cigar taxes.
Besides funneling smokers’ money into state coffers and prompting what is likely to be a decline in smoking rates, Measure 108 will make Oregon’s cigarette tax — $3.33 a pack — the sixth-highest in the nation and give the state the highest cigarette taxes outside the Northeast.
A pack of smokes will cost $2 more, and vaping products will, for the first time, have a tax of their own — 65% of the wholesale price. The measure also raises the cap on cigar taxes to $1.
Oregon voters overwhelmingly favored the new taxes, which were heavily promoted in TV ads and elsewhere, with 67% of the vote.
Oregon could haul in about $166 million per year in new taxes, most of that cash coming through the cigarette tax. After the nominal cost of managing the tax, 90% of the money will go to the state’s health care plan for the poor — called the Oregon Health Plan — and the rest will go to programs for helping people quit tobacco.
Measure 107, a state constitutional amendment to make clear that future campaign contribution limits and political ad disclosure laws are legal, passed with 79% of the vote.
Democrats in the Oregon Legislature have said they will consider setting contribution limits in 2021. Oregonians already passed strict contribution limits in 2006, but despite a state Supreme Court ruling that such limits are legal, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and Secretary of State Bev Clarno concluded the state-level limits are not in effect.