Measure 110 was misguided liberal activism posing as philanthropy

Measure 110 was a seriously flawed ballot measure written and bankrolled by outsiders that deserved to be defeated. Instead, Oregon voters approved the measure 58.5% – 41.5%. 

Now come the problems.

The measure, which will go into effect on Feb. 1, 2021, removes criminal penalties for individuals caught in unauthorized possession of controlled substances in amounts reflecting personal use and instead will impose a maximum fine of $100 or completion of a health assessment. That alone raises a lot of red flags. 

One likelihood is that the implementation of Measure 110 will eliminate a major deterrent to trying and using drugs, likely fueling more, not less, drug use and addiction.

“If you don’t pay the hundred-dollar fine, what are the consequences for that?” David Sanders, a Portland Police Bureau officer, told the Journal. “There are no consequences. That will not act as a deterrent and is essentially worthless. Every cop will tell you that.”

Of equal concern is the measure’s requirement that the state establish new addiction recovery centers. 

Easier said than done.

“Oregon, like so many states, has suffered from high numbers of drug overdoses, and people who want to get treatment but can’t find it or can’t afford it,” said one Measure 10 supporter during the campaign. “This measure would start to address treatment and interventions in a sustainable and systematic way in order to get people the help they need and deserve.”

A laudable thought, but treatment won’t happen if it’s not available.

 “…people experienced in dealing with drug addiction say Oregon isn’t prepared to offer treatment to anyone caught in possession of an illegal drug, especially in the midst of a pandemic that makes in-person treatment harder at the same time that overdoses are rising,” the Wall Street Journal reported today.

Rebeka Gipson-King, a spokeswoman for the Oregon Health Authority, told the Journal the process of starting a new treatment center would usually take at least 12 to 15 months, more time than the state has to create a network of treatment centers. “There’s a dearth of qualified service providers in Oregon,” she said.

Oregon is going to have to deal with these problems, not the national advocacy groups and wealthy out-of-staters who picked up much of the tab for the Measure 110 campaign on the 2020 ballot. 

In a classic case of misguided liberal activism posing as philanthropy,  the key backer of Measure 110 was  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, who has long been involved in pushing for an end the legal war on drugs. 

Drug Policy Action 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 the measure’s passage, “More Treatment for a Better Oregon: Yes on 110”. 

The next largest contributor was the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) of Palo Alto, CA, which donated $500,0000.   The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is a charity established and owned by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is chanzuckerberg.jpg
Mark Zuckerberg (L) with Priscilla Chan.

“This issue-based advocacy work is led by teams on CZI’s Justice and Opportunity Initiative , which tackles systemic barriers in society that hold people back from reaching their full potential,” the initiative explains on its website.

The website had no suggestions on how Oregon should deal with the budget issues raised by Measure 110.

The Sheriffs of Oregon pointed 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: A flawed ballot measure pushed by outsiders (Soros/Zuckerberg are key players)

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.

Media Malpractice: Reporting on Post-Election Hate

stopthehate

There’s not just fake news out there. There’s also a lot of reporting that’s just plain unreliable and biased, but is accepted uncritically by people because it fits their preconceived expectations and those of their like-minded circle.

Tales of hate incidents, threats and intimidation of minorities abound, with many commentators suggesting there’s a linkage between the incidents and Donald Trump’s election.

Much of the recent debate has relied on data gathered by the Montgomery, Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

On Nov. 29, the SPLC released reports “documenting (emphasis mine) how President-elect Donald Trump’s own words have sparked hate incidents across the country and had a profoundly negative effect on the nation’s schools”. The reports said that in the ten days after the election the SPLC counted 867 incidents of harassment and intimidation.

Most of the incidents cited by the SPLC involved anti-immigrant incidents (136), followed by anti-black (89) and anti-LGBT (43). A “Trump” category (41) referred to incidents where there was no clear defined target, like the vandalism of a “unity” sign in Connecticut, which the SPLC categorized as “pro-Trump vandalism”.

The New York Times jumped on the report, observing that, “Hate Crimes have surged across the country,” linking that assertion to the SPLC ‘s “hate crimes” reports and denouncing Trump for not being more aggressive in “condemning the hate talk and violence being done in his name.”

The New Yorker, citing the SPLC reports, said, “Since Donald Trump won the Presidential election, there has been a dramatic uptick in incidents of racist and xenophobic harassment across the country.”

“Hate, harassment incidents spike since Trump election”, CBS News reported, basing its report largely on SPLC’s data.

Willamette Week picked up the SPLC’s report, running a story headlined, “Report on Post-Election Hate Incidents Shows Oregon at Top of List; New Southern Poverty Law Center info paints alarming picture of Pacific Northwest.”

NPR’s All Things Considered also had a segment on the topic.

“Since Tuesday (Nov. 8), the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, has counted some 250 incidents…. ,” said NPR’s Eyder Peralta. “While they have not verified all of them, they include anti-Semitic, anti-black, anti-Muslim messages and, in the case of a Michigan middle school, a lunchroom anti-immigrant taunt – build the wall.”

“I think that the emotions that were unleashed by the Trump campaign’s use of bigotry as a tool to get elected has reached every part of our society, “ said Heidi Beirich, an employee of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) described as an expert on various forms of extremism. “I think that the emotions that were unleashed by the Trump campaign’s use of bigotry as a tool to get elected has reached every part of our society.”

Because the SPLC is widely recognized as a reputable source, or because many media outlets have taken the easy way out and simply parroted the SPLC’s reports, the media have been awash in reports citing the SPLC data.

There’s one big problem. Media don’t note that the SPLC has not verified the incidents it cites so breathlessly as evidence of a spike in hate crimes..

On its website, the SPLC admits the hate incidents it cites came from news reports, social media, and direct submissions via SPLC’s #ReportHate page. “These incidents, aside from news reports, are largely anecdotal” and “…it was not possible to confirm the veracity of all reports” the SPLC says.

And there’s no way for the public to even read the details of all the reported incidents because the SPLC’s website doesn’t provide access to them.

There may, indeed, have been a recent rise in hate incidents, and the SPLC’s reports make for bone-chilling reading. But the reports don’t “document” hate incidents if the word is taken to mean providing hard evidence.

Hanna Goldfield addressed the critical need for writing to be accurate, even if an alternative version is more “beautiful” or makes a story stronger, in a piece she wrote for the New Yorker. “The conceit that one must choose facts or beauty—even if it’s beauty in the name of “Truth” or a true “idea”—is preposterous,” she said. “A good writer—with the help of a fact-checker and an editor, perhaps—should be able to marry the two, and a writer who refuses to even try is, simply, a hack.”

Reporters should also recognize that data sources are rarely neutral observers. the SPLC, for example, has a position to plead, a message to deliver in order to generate contributions, a desire to be quoted so its influence will be enhanced.

Paul Sperry, a former Washington bureau chief for Investor’s Business Daily, also points out that although the SPLC claims to be a nonpartisan civil rights law firm, it receives funding from leftist groups, including ones controlled by billionaire George Soros. And a review of Federal Election Commission records reveals that its board members contributed more than $13,400 to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns.

In summary, there’s a lesson here for current and aspiring reporters. Reporters shouldn’t just accept and promote information that affirms their biases or makes for a story that attracts a lot of clicks.  That’s sloppy reporting that undermines trust in the media, and rightfully so.