Campaign Finance Reform z_wei / Getty Images
[READ ALL OF THE MERCURY'S 2020 ENDORSEMENTS HERE!—eds]

Oregon Ballot Measure 107, Campaign Finance Reform: Vote YES

The premise behind Measure 107 is simple, and hard to argue with: Politics shouldn’t be controlled by those with the deepest pockets, and the government should be able to set rules that limit the influence wealthy individuals and powerful corporations have over elections.

Specifically, Measure 107 would change the Oregon Constitution to allow state and local governments to set laws around how much money individuals and organizations are allowed to contribute to local political campaigns. It would also allow for laws requiring campaigns to disclose their largest contributors in their advertisements.

Multnomah County and City of Portland voters already passed campaign finance reform rules in recent elections, and those rules survived a legal challenge in the Oregon Supreme Court in April. If passed, this measure would likely open the door for statewide campaign finance reform—and considering that nearly $40 million was spent in the last governor’s race, that’s something Oregon sorely needs.

This is the rare ballot measure that Oregonians of all nearly political stripes ought to agree upon—we deserve transparency from our leaders, and the wealthiest among us shouldn’t have undue influence over our elections. Vote “Yes” on Measure 107.

Oregon Ballot Measure 108, Tobacco Tax: Vote YES

anchooalex / Getty Images

Remember that mysterious vaping-related lung illness that rocked 2019? That illness turned out to not be the biggest health problem facing our lungs this century, but it did bring fresh attention to an old problem: The tobacco industry continues to have a death grip on Oregonians, and is extending its reach with vape products designed to appeal to teens and 20-somethings.

The state already runs programs that help current smokers and vapers quit and discourage people from starting to use tobacco products. But funding for those programs is a drop in the bucket compared to the marketing budget of major tobacco companies.

Measure 108 can help level the playing field. By increasing the tax Oregonians pay on cigarettes and other traditional tobacco products, and establishing a tax on vape products, this measure will generate an estimated $160 million in revenue, which the state plans to use to help fund those prevention and cessation programs—and establish other health resources for low-income people.

The one major downside to this ballot measure: It will exclusively tax people who are addicted to smoking and vaping, who we know are disproportionately people of color, LGBTQ+ people, and people who didn’t graduate high school. That’s not an accident: Tobacco companies deliberately target those communities in their advertising. Now, the very people victimized by Big Tobacco will be forced to pay even more. A tax that targets the revenue of the industry, rather than a per-item sales tax that hurts consumers, would’ve been the fairer option, and we wish the Oregon Legislature would have found a way to make that happen.

But because the measure would fund programs that will also help low-income people—and because we know the state needs more funding for tobacco cessation and discouragement programs—we’ve decided to endorse this measure. Vote “Yes” on 108.

Oregon Ballot Measure 109, Therapeutic Psilocybin: Vote YES

mr.orange002 / Getty Images

Here’s a stat that probably won’t surprise anyone currently living through the COVID-19 pandemic: One-in-six Oregonians experience some form of mental health issue. However, some advocates have hope for an emerging treatment that could help ease depression, anxiety, and substance abuse: psilocybin therapy. A medicinal derivative found in mushrooms, psilocybin—when correctly administered under a trained facilitator’s care—has been found to provide longtime relief to those experiencing depression and anxiety, and often within just a few sessions.

This is not a new science. The effects of psilocybin on patients have been studied for decades, and by such respected medical institutions as Johns Hopkins and UCLA. In fact, the positive results of these studies were so striking, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) labeled it a “breakthrough therapy” in 2019. So, why isn’t it being used everywhere? That’s largely due to the stigma that surrounds “magic mushrooms” based on their recreational use, and other drugs that have been criminalized by the federal government, thereby slowing down or even stopping critical research.

Because of this stigma, the Oregon therapists and national experts who created Measure 109—which permits licensed service providers to administer psilocybin-producing mushroom and fungi products to individuals 21 years of age or older—have built in a striking number of “guard rails” and protections to convince voters that psilocybin therapy won’t be subject to abuse. The measure puts regulation in the hands of the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), who would create a licensing system for trained facilitators around the state who would supervise psilocybin therapy for patients. In addition, proponents of the measure say an advisory board would assist in making sure the therapy was affordable and reached diverse, underserved communities.

In short, this measure won’t be “legalizing” psilocybin in the same way cannabis was legalized in Oregon in the 2014 election. The goal is to strictly regulate the drug, and make it available only to those who have been trained by the state to treat people who could benefit from it. In addition, patients will be screened for any potential risk factors before being administered psilocybin.

As it’s the first program of its kind in the country, there will certainly be questions that need to be answered—such as the wisdom of tossing a brand new drug onto the very full regulatory plate of the OHA. However, the benefits that will be gained for those suffering from depression, anxiety, and substance abuse clearly outweigh the majority of concerns. Vote yes on Measure 109.

Oregon Ballot Measure 110, Expand Addiction Recovery Services: Vote YES

valentinrussanov / Getty Images

Being charged with a crime is the easiest way for some low-income people struggling with substance use disorder to get treatment in Oregon. That’s largely due to state-funded drug diversion programs, which allow people arrested for low-level drug possession the option to enter a free drug treatment program instead of jail. But should a criminal record be required to access lifesaving treatment? The folks behind Measure 110 don’t think so, and neither do we.

Measure 110 hopes to do two things: Improve access to treatment for people with substance abuse disorders, and decriminalize the possession of small amounts of drugs.

Currently, Oregon ranks near last in the country for access to drug treatment. According to a report by the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission, an estimated 281,000 Oregonians who needed substance use treatment within the last year were unable to get it. Measure 110 proposes using $45 million in excess revenue from the state’s cannabis tax to create at least 14 addiction treatment centers spread out across Oregon, which are owned by the state but run by organizations with the proper credentials and experience (think Central City Concern or Outside In). Importantly, the services provided by these centers would be free of charge and offer 24/7 support. The centers funded by this measure would also be overseen by a new council composed of physicians, social workers, mental health providers, and at least two people who’ve experienced a substance use disorder.

Now for the measure’s second half: Measure 110 would immediately eliminate arrests for people caught carrying less than two grams of a controlled substance—like cocaine, meth, or heroin—and instead stick them with a $100 fine. The person can either pay the fine or opt for a free assessment at one of the new addiction treatment clinics, which eliminates the fee. If the assessment finds that the person has a substance use disorder, a clinician will offer to connect their patient to recovery programs. Enrollment in a program will not be mandated.

That’s one of the biggest problems raised by Oregon Recovers, the addiction recovery organization that opposes Measure 110. While they support decriminalizing low-level drug possession, the group argues that in many cases, the only way someone will accept substance use treatment is if it’s the only alternative to jail. Opponents would like to see a day when that’s no longer the best-case scenario, but believe that for the time being, replacing that mandate with an optional assessment could do more harm than good.

To be clear, this measure does not get rid of the criminal justice system’s drug diversion programs. If the measure passes, people convicted with a higher-level possession charge are given the option to enter free treatment.

We believe that Measure 110 is a critical form of harm reduction in an imperfect system. One low-level drug offense on a criminal record can be the sole reason a person is turned away from a job, house, school, or loan. These charges predominately impact people of color, and greatly limit people’s potential to find success, financial stability, and community. This measure will begin to undo the generational harm low-level drug arrests have inflicted on Oregon’s communities of color.

We believe the trauma and lifelong impact of an arrest isn’t an acceptable form of collateral for someone seeking addiction treatment in Oregon. Vote yes on Measure 110.