Tagballot measures

Oregon, Washington, D.C. to vote on ballot measures that address psilocybin, also known as magic mushrooms

In November, Oregon could be the first state to approve a ballot initiative, Measure 109, that legalizes psilocybin. Washington, D.C., is also voting on a measure related to psilocybin and other entheogenic plants and fungi.

Currently, psilocybin, which is derived from certain species of fungi, is listed as a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act. 

In Oregon, Measure 109 would create a program for administering psilocybin, such as psilocybin-producing mushrooms and fungi, to individuals aged 21 years or older. People would 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.

Measure 109 faces opposition from a Portland-based group that seeks to decriminalize psilocybin. Zave Forster of Decriminalize Nature Portland stated, “We are concerned about the implications of an elite group of beneficiaries putting a free medicine that grows naturally out of the ground behind a paywall.”

Washington, D.C. is voting on a ballot measure, Initiative 81, to declare that police shall treat the non-commercial cultivation, distribution, possession, and use of entheogenic plants and fungi among the lowest law enforcement priorities. Initiative 81 would define entheogenic plants and fungi as species of plants and fungi that contain ibogaine, dimethyltryptamine, mescaline, psilocybin, or psilocyn. 

Denver, Colorado, was the first local jurisdiction to vote on, and approve, a ballot measure to declare that the adult use and possession of psilocybin mushrooms were of the city’s lowest law enforcement priorities. In California, the Oakland City Council and Santa Cruz City Council passed resolutions to de-prioritize law enforcement actions against entheogenic plants. Most recently, Ann Arbor, Michigan, became the fourth jurisdiction to declare entheogenic plants to be considered the city’s lowest law enforcement priorities.

Both Oregon Measure 109 and D.C. Initiative 81 share a common top funder—the New Approach PAC. The organization is based in Washington, D.C., and supported marijuana legalization measures in previous election cycles. Between 2014 and 2018, New Approach contributed at least $6.9 million to campaigns supporting recreational or medical marijuana measures. Tax filings from prior years show that New Approach received funding from the Van Ameringen Foundation and Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps. In both Oregon and D.C., no political action committees were organized to oppose the measures.

Additional reading:

Statewide ballot measures written at first-year graduate school reading level

2020 ballot measure readability analysis: ballot language is written at an average reading grade level of 17 (first-year graduate school), down from between 19 and 20 in 2018

The average statewide ballot measure in 2020 is written at a reading grade level of 17, similar to the reading level in first-year graduate school. The 2020 reading level is down from between 19 and 20 in 2018, according to Ballotpedia’s annual analysis of the readability of ballot language for the 128 statewide measures across 34 states in 2020.

Below are some of the highlights of the report.

• The average Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level for the ballot titles (ballot questions) of all 128 statewide 2020 ballot measures was about 17.

• The average ballot title grade for all measures in a single state averaged together ranged from 10 in Rhode Island, Washington, and Wyoming to 32 in Virginia.

• In 2018, the average Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level for ballot titles was between 19 and 20, and average state scores ranged from eight to 42.

• Ballotpedia identified 67 measures with a ballot summary that was set to appear alongside the ballot question on the ballot. The average Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level for the ballot summaries was about 14.

• The average ballot summary grade for all measures in a single state averaged together ranged from 10 in Louisiana and Maryland to 20 in Arkansas.

• The average ballot title grade was highest for ballot titles written by state legislatures (19) and other state boards and offices (18).

• Initiative proponents wrote the ballot language for eight of the measures (in some cases, with help from state officials). The average ballot title grade for those measures was 15.

• Attorneys general wrote titles with the lowest average grade level of 14.

• The average ballot title in 2020 contained about 60 words. In 2018, the average ballot title length was 66 words.

• The 2020 ballot measure with the longest ballot title was Colorado Proposition 118 concerning a paid family and medical leave program. The ballot question had 270 words.

• The states with the shortest ballot titles or questions on average were Florida, California, Iowa, and Alaska; all of these except Iowa did feature additional ballot summaries or explanations.

Additional readings:

30 committees supporting and opposing Colorado’s November ballot measures have raised over $39 million, spent over $32 million

Eleven statewide ballot measures are certified to appear on the November 3 ballot in Colorado. Ballotpedia identified 30 committees supporting and opposing 10 of the measures. The 30 committees had raised $39,321,079.49 and had spent $32,226,098.34 according to reports due on October 5 that covered information through September 30. The next reports are due on October 19.

Eight of the 11 measures on the ballot were placed on the ballot through citizen petition drives and concern wolf reintroduction, abortion restrictions, citizenship requirements for voting, national popular vote, paid medical leave, gambling, and taxes.

The citizen-initiated measures are Amendments 76 and 77 and Propositions 113 through 118. Campaigns surrounding the citizen-initiated measures raised 77.11% of the funds ($30.3 million of the $39.3 million total) and accounted for 78% of the expenditures ($25.3 million of the $32.2 million total).

The state legislature referred a state statute to the November 2020 ballot that would increase tobacco taxes and create a new e-cigarette tax to fund various health and education programs (Proposition EE). The committees supporting Proposition EE raised $3.6 million. Opponents raised $3.5 million.

The state legislature referred two constitutional amendments: Amendment B would repeal the Gallagher Amendment and freeze current property tax assessment rates. Amendment C would amend charitable gaming requirements. Amendment B supporters raised $1.6 million, and opponents raised $202,730.

Ballotpedia did not identify committees supporting or opposing Amendment C.

The two largest contributors to 2020 ballot measure campaigns were the Sixteen Thirty Fund and the North Fund. The Sixteen Thirty fund has given $3,083,667.64 in total to Colorado Families First supporting a paid family and medical leave program and to Abortion Access for All opposing abortion restrictions. The North Fund has given $3,200,000.00 million to the same committees.

In 2018, Ballotpedia tracked $1.185 billion in contributions to the ballot measure campaigns supporting and opposing the 167 certified 2018 measures. Campaigns supporting and opposing the 13 statewide ballot measures on the 2018 ballot in Colorado raised $70.4 million, ranking Colorado #6 among states with the highest ballot measure campaign contributions in 2018. California was #1 with $369 million.

So far in 2020, Ballotpedia has tracked $872.6 million in contributions to committees supporting or opposing the 128 statewide measures. Contribution totals increase rapidly in October due to pre-election campaign finance reports. Colorado currently ranks #4 among states with the highest ballot measure campaign contributions.

Additional reading:

What statewide ballot measures will Washington voters decide on November 3?

Voters in Washington will decide six statewide ballot measures on November 3: two binding measures and four nonbinding tax advisory questions. This year is the first presidential election year since 1928 in which the Washington ballot will not feature an Initiative to the People (ITP), a citizen-initiated state statute for which groups collect signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Referendum 90:
The only citizen-initiated measure on the 2020 ballot in Washington is Referendum 90.

The Washington State Legislature passed and the governor signed Senate Bill 5395 (SB 5395) in March 2020. SB 5395 was designed to require comprehensive sexual health education in public schools. Opponents of the bill, organized as “Parents for Safe Schools,” collected signatures to place SB 5395 on the ballot and are advocating for a reject vote on the measure, which would repeal Senate Bill 5395. A vote to approve the referendum would allow SB 5395 to go into effect.

The bill is on hold pending the result of the election.
Parents for Safe Schools said, “Reject Referendum 90. Stop the early sexualization of our kids. Materials to meet the new state standards will include graphic sexual subject matter. These are decisions that should be left to parents and local communities. … [The bill is] a costly mandate at a time when school budgets are being cut. State and local budgets are facing massive deficits which threaten funding for basic programs.”

Washington State Senator Claire Wilson (D), a sponsor of the SB 5395, said, “Some people hear the words ‘sex education’ and mistake the focus of the curriculum, which is health and safety and is age-appropriate for each grade level. This is about making sure younger children know what kind of touching is inappropriate, whether by peers or predators. It’s about helping older students recognize and resist abusive or coercive behavior.”

Senate Joint Resolution 8212:
The state legislature referred Senate Joint Resolution 8212, a constitutional amendment, to the 2020 ballot. The amendment would allow the Washington Legislature to invest the Family and Medical Leave Insurance Account and the Long-Term Care Services and Supports Trust Account into stocks or other methods of investment.

Currently, the Washington Constitution prohibits the state from investing funds into stocks or other methods of investment, limiting investment capabilities of the state to government and corporate bonds and certificates of deposit. Some other funds have been made exempt from that constitutional restriction, including the following:

  • public pension and retirements funds;
  • industrial insurance trust funds; and
  • funds that benefit individuals with developmental disabilities.

Advisory Votes 32, 33, 34, and 35:

Advisory Votes 32-35 were automatically referred to the ballot as required under Initiative 960, which was passed in 2007. I-960 requires an advisory vote to be referred to voters concerning any law passed by the legislature that creates or increases taxes or fees. The outcome of the question is nonbinding and does not result in a new, changed, or rejected law. Rather, the vote serves to advise the legislature whether or not to maintain or repeal a bill they passed.

Thirty-one advisory votes have been on the statewide ballot in Washington between 2012 and 2019. Voters voted in favor of advising the legislature to maintain 10 of the bills. In the other 21 cases, voters voted to advise the legislature to repeal the bill in question.

Twelve tax advisory votes were on the ballot in 2019. Voters voted to advise the legislature to maintain three bills and repeal the other nine.

Together, the four advisory vote questions on the 2020 ballot represent bills increasing state revenue by an estimated $2 billion over 10 years.

Summaries of the measures are below:

  • Advisory Vote 32 concerns Senate Bill 5323, which was designed to levy a tax on certain carryout bags provided by retailers.
  • Advisory Vote 33 concerns Senate Bill 5628, which was designed to levy a tax on heavy equipment rentals.
  • Advisory Vote 34 concerns Senate Bill 6492, which was designed to increase the business and occupation tax rate and reduce certain surcharges.
  • Advisory Vote 35 concerns Senate Bill 6690, which was designed to increase the business and occupation tax rate on commercial airplane manufacturers.

A total of 60 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Washington during even years from the 18-year period between 2000 and 2018. 58% (35) were approved and 42% (25) were defeated.

Additional Reading:

Campaign contributions to California’s 12 November ballot measures exceed $500 million

In California, more than $525 million has been raised to support or oppose this year’s 12 general election ballot measures through September 19. The next campaign finance deadline—and the final one before the election—in California is October 24. So far, there are four ballot measures that have seen more than $50 million raised.

Proposition 22, which would define app-based drivers as independent contractors, is leading the pack with $194.99 million between supporters and opponents. Yes on Proposition 22 received $184.3 million from five app-based firms—Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, InstaCart, and Postmates.

In October 2019, Brandon Castillo, a spokesperson for the campaign, stated, “We’re going to spend what it takes to win. It’s been widely reported that three of the companies already shifted $90 million, but we’re still in the early phases. The bottom line is: We’re committed to passing this.”

The campaign No on Prop 22 received $10.7 million. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, SEIU-UHW West, Service Employees International Union, United Food & Commercial Workers Local 770, and United Food & Commercial Workers Western States Issues PAC—labor unions or union-affiliated committees—were the top-five donors to No on Prop 22.

Proposition 23, which would create new physician and data requirements for chronic dialysis clinics, is a continuation of the conflict between the SEIU-UHW West and dialysis businesses that also resulted in Proposition 8. In 2018, Proposition 8 was the country’s most expensive ballot measure. The SEIU-UHW West raised $6.21 million for Proposition 23 through September 19. No on 23 received $93.06 million from four dialysis firms—DaVita, Fresenius, U.S. Renal Care, and Dialysis Clinic, Inc.

Proposition 15 would require commercial and industrial properties, except those zoned as commercial agriculture, to be taxed based on their market value, rather than their purchase price. Yes on 15 received $42.9 million, including $11.76 million from the California Teachers Association. Both Chan Zuckerberg Advocacy and SEIU California State Council provided the campaign with more than $7 million each. Opponents, organized as seven political action committees, raised $29.91 million. The California Business Roundtable provided $13.36 million for the opposition campaign.

Like Proposition 23, Proposition 21 follows a similar conflict from 2018. In 2018, voters rejected Proposition 10, which would have repealed the state’s law limiting local government use of rent control. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which backed Proposition 10, is sponsoring the campaign in support of Proposition 21, an initiative to allow local governments to enact rent control on housing that was first occupied over 15 years ago. Yes on 21 received $24.01 million, including $23.94 million from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. No on Prop 21 and allied political action committees raised $41.49 million, including $6.6 million from the Essex Property Trust, $5.6 million from the California Business Roundtable, and $5.5 million from Equity Residential.

In 2018, there were 11 statewide measures on the general election ballot in California. Campaigns supporting and opposing the 11 measures received $362.6 million through the entire election cycle. In 2016, there was a total of $497 million in ballot measure campaign contributions for 18 measures.

There are still 45 days from the most recent campaign finance date (September 19) to the election on November 3, 2020, for campaigns to raise and spend funds. More than 1/3 of the total contributions raised in 2018 were received between late September and the end of the election cycle.

Campaigns supporting and opposing all 128 statewide measures on the ballot in 34 states in 2020 have raised a total of $803.7 million.

Additional reading:
Ballot measure campaign finance, 2020

This article was updated on Oct. 2 at 6:10pm to correct a typo that erroneously stated that the AIDS Healthcare Foundation is sponsoring a campaign in support of Proposition 23. It has been corrected to state that they are sponsoring a campaign in support of Proposition 21.