The initiative process was put in place in Oregon at the beginning of the 20th century as a way for local citizens to band together to directly initiate amendments to the Oregon state constitution and enact new state statutes.
Measure 110 on the 2020 ballot shows how the “local” element has been corrupted as national advocacy groups and wealthy out-of-staters behind the scenes invade the process.
“There’s this perception out there that the initiative process is all about the little guy,” Jennie Bowser, a consultant who for many years studied ballot measures for the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures, told the Center for Public Integrity. “But the truth of the matter is that it’s a big business. It’s really well organized, and it’s really well funded. And it is very, very rarely a group of local citizens who get together and try to make a difference.”
Who’s bankrolling the Measure 110 campaign? Not Oregonians.
The key backer is Drug Policy Action, a New York City-based 501(c)(4) nonprofit advocacy group. The organization supports marijuana legalization and more lenient punishments for drug possession, use, and sale. The group is the advocacy and political arm of the Drug Policy Alliance, a 501(c)(3) educational nonprofit that was also behind Oregon’s 2014 measure legalizing recreational cannabis.
The Drug Policy Alliance has received major funding from billionaire investor George Soros, has long been involved in pushing for an end the legal war on drugs.
In FY2018, the most recent year for which its annual Form 990 financial filing with the IRS is available, Drug Policy Action had $953,436 in revenue and $28 million in assets. Individual contributors are not identified.
Drug Policy Action has contributed $1,574,788.00 to the Measure 110 campaign, making it by far the largest single contributor to the group in Oregon fighting for passage of Measure 110, “More Treatment for a Better Oregon: Yes on 110”. The group operates out of 3321 SE 20th Avenue in Portland.
The next largest contributor is the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative of Palo Alto, CA, which has donated $500,0000. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is a charity established and owned by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan.
Most of the money being spent by More Treatment for a Better Oregon isn’t being spent at Oregon businesses either. Its largest expenditure to date is $1,415,810.00 to Screen Strategies Media, a media strategy, planning and buying agency based in Fairfax, VA that primarily serves Democratic candidates and liberal groups.
What is this out-of-state crowd proposing in Measure 110?
At first glance, it sounds like a simple addiction treatment measure funded by marijuana taxes. It’s much more.
Dig down and you find it also would decriminalize the possession of dangerous drugs.
The measure would remove criminal penalties for individuals caught in unauthorized possession of controlled substances in amounts reflecting personal use and instead would impose a maximum fine of $100 or completion of a health assessment. The personal-use limits specified for particular substances are:
- LSD, methadone, oxycodone: 40 units
- Psilocybin: 12g
- Heroin: 1g
- Cocaine, methamphetamine: 2g
The Sheriffs of Oregon point out in the 2020 Oregon Voters’ Pamphlet that Measure 110 would shift millions of dollars of marijuana tax revenue from schools, mental health and addiction services, state police, cities, counties, and drug prevention programs. Instead, these funds would be redirected into a Measure 110 fund.
“The funding promised by Measure 110 is not ‘free’ money that is unallocated and sitting in state coffers waiting to be spent,” Crook County District Attorney Wade Whiting wrote in the Central Oregonian. “Marijuana tax revenue is currently being used to fund schools, police, mental health programs and existing addiction treatment and prevention programs. Measure 110 will divert dollars from these essential services.”
Measure 110 is a seriously flawed ballot measure written and bankrolled by outsiders. It deserves to be defeated.