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Oregon ballot measures headed for wins

All four statewide ballot measures appeared headed for passage in the first round of ballot returns counted Tuesday night.

Just past 8 p.m., early returns showed voters supported campaign finance reform, increased tobacco taxes and legalized use of psilocybin, while voting to approve a measure to decriminalize possession of hard drugs such as methamphetamine.

In the early results, Measure 107 is winning with 81% of the vote. It would amend the state Constitution to make it clear that campaign contributions can be capped. A 1997 Oregon Supreme Court ruling threw out limits on free-speech grounds, but in 2016 and 2018 voters in Multnomah County and Portland, respectively, approved local contribution limits to raise the issue again. After lawmakers referred the measure to the ballot, in April the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the county’s limits — but the ballot measure aims to set out the legal lay of the land clearly.

Polls have shown overwhelming support for campaign contribution limits, so the outcome is not a surprise. Supporters raised barely more than $170,000 to support the measure.

The campaign faced little opposition outside of ballot arguments against filed by the Taxpayers’ Association of Oregon and Kyle Markley, the Libertarian candidate for Secretary of State.

Measure 108 is also on pace for passage, with 70% of the vote in early returns. The measure would raise Oregon’s cigarette tax to $2 per pack, a 67-cent boost over the current tax, and raise the per-cigar tax from 50 cents to $1. It also would extend the tax to vaping products such as electronic cigarettes. The Oregon Health Authority would use the money to fund health care for low-income people as well as on programs aimed at tobacco-related diseases.

Products for tobacco-use cessation and for marijuana vaping are exempted from the measure.

The increased tax puts Oregon on a par with rates in California and Washington, and would take effect Jan. 1.

Supporters have raised more than $13.5 million —far outstripping opponents, who raised a mere $7,000.

It’s a huge contrast from 2007, when major tobacco companies spent what was then a record of $12 million to defeat an 85-cent tax increase.

Opposition arguments were filed by the Taxpayers Association of Oregon and Eric Fruits, a vice president of the Cascade Policy Institute, a free market think tank in Portland.

“We are proud to be part of this extraordinary effort to protect health care for the 1 in 4 Oregonians who rely on the Oregon Health Plan for coverage and save lives through vaping and tobacco reduction and prevention,” said Lisa Vance, chief executive for Providence Health & Services-Oregon, of the results.

Measure 109 is winning with 59% of the vote. It would make Oregon the nation’s first state to allow limited therapeutic use of psilocybin, a psychoactive ingredient found in “magic” mushrooms.

Under Measure 109, people would pay for the mushrooms, which are subject to a state tax set at 15% of the retail price. They would be barred from taking them home, instead using them at licensed locations. Unlike legal marijuana, the measure permits no marketing.

Supporters argued that psilocybin may help with mental health issues, such as addiction or depression stemming from advanced cancer. And studies are underway. But opponents, such as the Oregon Psychiatric Physicians Association contend that psilocybin has not been established as a safe treatment

Supporters raised nearly $3.5 million to support the measure, most of it from New Approach PAC, a Washington, D.C.—based political action committee that favors drug policy reform.

There is no single campaign committee in opposition to the measure. The Advance Liberty committee opposes all four statewide ballot measures, but spent little.

As he celebrated with sponsors, Portland-based therapists Tom and Sheri Eckert, the campaign manager for Yes on 109 told the Portland Tribune hailed the victory.

“All eyes are on Oregon over the next two years as we develop this program,” Sam Chapman said. “I’m sure we’ll be hearing from California and Washington and New York and Colorado (and) Florida after this.”

Measure 110 also enjoyed a lead after the first round of ballots were counted, garnering 62% of the vote. It would decriminalize hard drugs and direct funds for addiction treatment.

The measure would make Oregon the first state to decriminalize personal-use amounts of methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, oxycodone and other hard drugs, levying fines instead. It would downgrade possession of larger amounts from a felony, carrying a state prison sentence, to a misdemeanor punishable by less than a year in a local jail. The measure would shift marijuana tax revenues away from schools and into drug treatment.

Supporters of the measure raised about $3.5 million, most of it from the New York—based Drug Policy Alliance.

Opponents raised nearly $150,000 and spent about $75,000. In addition to former Gov. John Kitzhaber and 25 of Oregon’s 36 district attorneys, plus the associations of sheriffs and police chiefs, some treatment providers opposed the measure.

Man Voiter Putting Ballot Into Voting box. Democracy Freedom Concept