Policy /

Oregon Counties To Vote On Participation In Decriminalized Psychedelic Therapies This November

A 2020 ballot initiative has counties in Oregon weighing whether to allow caregivers to provide patients with psilocybin, the active compound in the recreational drug known as magic mushrooms, and many counties are now opting out or presenting the choice to voters once again this November.

During the 2020 election, voters in the Beaver State were asked whether caregivers should be allowed to provide psychedelic substances to treat depression, anxiety, trauma and addiction. Ballot Measure 109, which 56% of Oregonians voted in favor of, authorized the state, via the Oregon Health Authority, to “license and regulate the manufacturing, transportation, delivery, sale, and purchase of psilocybin products and the provision of psilocybin services.”

Measure 109, however, is not a cut-and-dry statewide decision and includes a provision that allows local governments to ask voters to decide if their jurisdiction will participate or if residents would prefer an outright ban versus a two-year moratorium. So far, at least 57 cities and 26 counties have opted to present the decision to voters in the upcoming November election.

Under the program, which the state refers to as psilocybin services, caregivers are allowed to administer psychedelics to patients 21 years or older during supervised sessions in order to “improve the physical, mental, and social well-being” of the patient. According to the text of the ballot measure, one out of five residents in the state are dealing with mental health issues and that “internationally recognized medical institutions indicate that psilocybin has shown efficacy” in treating a wide range of mental health conditions.

The program is still in an early phase of development with licensing not expected to begin until early January of 2023. According to the state’s informational website on the future of psilocybin services, a number of critical regulatory issues are still being ironed out, including:

  • establishing rules by the end of the year
  • developing a psilocybin facilitator training program approval system, license tracking, and compliance case management system
  • securing and customizing a product tracking system
  • an “equity and justice-centered” approach to background checks
  • setting processes and procedures for each of our programs
  • supporting the Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board and subcommittees

According to Nature, the use of the psychedelic may “show some promise,” and the FDA has greenlit a number of  clinical trials:

New studies suggest psilocybin does hold promise. Both the London-based company Compass Pathways and the non-profit Usona Institute in Madison, Wisconsin, have been granted FDA breakthrough-therapy status for their psilocybin treatments and have launched phase II trials.

In these trials, psilocybin is administered during a treatment session lasting 6–8 hours. Participants don eye shades and headphones, and make themselves comfortable while listening to relaxing music.

While Oregon has yet to approve any licenses for psilocybin centers, prospective entrants to the industry have already invested thousands of dollars in facilitator training, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting, and many are now wondering what they will do if their counties choose to ban the substance from therapies.

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