PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – On January 1, Oregon will become the first state in the country to allow people to use psilocybin in supervised service centers. However, there are 100 cities and 27 unincorporated counties throughout the state that will ask voters if they want to opt-out of allowing psilocybin-related businesses to operate.
Dozens of city councils and county commissions have adopted ordinances to refer the decision to voters in the November general election.
Aumsville is one of the cities on the fence.
“I think the major issue, especially within my city… has largely just been the fact that whoever came up with this idea of having people vote on something before the rules are even finalized, maybe they need to sit in the corner for a little bit. It just doesn’t make sense,” Aumsville Mayor Derek Clevenger said.
He said he hasn’t seen widespread fear about the use of so-called magic mushrooms among people in his city, but he’s sensed there are still a lot of questions about how the supervised use of the psychedelic compound will work.
Measure 109 passed in the November 2020 election and authorized the Oregon Health Authority to provide licenses and regulations for service providers who can then oversee and administer psilocybin-producing mushroom and fungi products to anyone 21 or older.
Research suggests psilocybin is effective at addressing depression, anxiety, trauma and addiction.
After the measure passed, the Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board had from January 1, 2021, to December 31, 2022, to establish rules for psilocybin products and services.
On Tuesday, the board shared the revised draft of its rules with the public for the first time. The Oregon Health Authority welcomes public feedback on the rules until November 21. They will not be finalized until the end of the year.
For Clevenger, this seems like a problem. He’s frustrated Measure 109 was allowed to go on the ballot before the rules for psilocybin were decided.
“I have a pretty positive view of psilocybin and its medicinal uses… But it is pretty insane to ask voters to vote on an issue when nobody knows what they’re really voting on,” he said.
But Angie Allbee, the section manager for Oregon Psilocybin Services Section, said that’s not how these things work. She said the statute that passed with Measure 109 is what gives the authority to the agency to develop rules and start the process.
The measure allowed OHA to go through the process of hiring staff that focuses on psilocybin and gave them time and resources to properly draft the rules, she said.
Allbee testified in front of the Aumsville City Council to tell them more about psilocybin and the rulemaking process. She said the section has received several requests like this and tries to accommodate them.
“What is actually in Measure 109? There’s been a lot of misunderstanding about what this looks like. And so, we’re always happy to speak with folks and be able to describe our work a little bit more and also talk a little bit more about local government considerations,” she said.
Even after talking to Aumsville city councilors, Clevenger said they still felt uneasy about the rules not being finalized until December 31 and decided to move forward with putting the measure on the ballot.
The measure, as it’s written, would prohibit all psilocybin businesses from operating within the city limits.
Marion County is also considering a measure that would prohibit psilocybin manufacturing and unincorporated areas outside city limits.
This isn’t the first time Aumsville has been hesitant to adopt new legislation. The city also voted to outlaw marijuana-related businesses after the drug was legalized in 2016.
Now, there’s a measure on the ballot for the upcoming election that will ask Aumsville residents if they want to overturn this decision and allow marijuana dispensaries, producers, retailers and wholesalers into the city.
“I think more than likely we will see Aumsville lift our marijuana moratorium and probably put in a moratorium on psilocybin,” Clevenger said, predicting the outcome of the upcoming election. “I think it’s going to go the same way and we’re going to put down a moratorium on psilocybin and give it 5-10 years, we’ll probably lift it.”
Allbee said one thing they’re trying to educate people on is that psilocybin services will not operate in the same way as marijuana dispensaries.
“It’s very much centered on the client accessing services with the support of a licensed facilitator. Our rules are over 70 pages long,” she said. “There’s a lot of client safety that is tied into those rules and that process.”
As part of that process, any client interested in receiving psilocybin services will need to meet with a licensed and trained facilitator for a preparation session prior to scheduling their administration session at a licensed service center.
The process is meant to determine if psilocybin is a good choice for a client and Allbee said licensed facilitators will be allowed to deny people services or refer clients elsewhere.
If a client moves forward with psilocybin services, it will be administered during a monitored session and people will be required to remain at the service center for specific amounts of time, depending on how much psilocybin they take.
Allbee said it’s good cities are voting now on whether they’ll allow psilocybin-related businesses. This way, the votes will be in before OHA starts issuing licenses on Jan. 2 and they’ll know which parts of Oregon they can and can’t issue licenses to.
Psychedelic Alpha, an independent newsletter that strives to make an impact within the field of psychedelic medicine, worked with Portland-based Emerge Law and San Francisco-based Calyx Law to craft an interactive map showing which local jurisdictions in Oregon are considering opting out of Measure 109.
Josh Hardman, the founder and editor of Psychedelic Alpha said personally, he hopes to see opt-out ordinances defeated in many of the counties and cities preparing to vote on Nov. 8.
“If such ordinances are successful, Oregonians in the east will have to travel quite some distance to reach a psilocybin service center, and that doesn’t strike me as equitable. But, we must respect the wishes of Oregonians and the allowances for local exemption afforded in Measure 109,” he said.
Hardman pointed out that while the opt-out tracking map looks very yellow, indicating all the counties considering opting out of the measure, looks can be deceiving. He pointed out that the population of Eastern Oregon is significantly less than Western Oregon and that the majority of Oregonians live in counties that are not considering opting out of Measure 109.
Attorney Sean Clancy from Emerge Law Group noted that unincorporated land outside of incorporated city limits is subject to county control and therefore, a county’s vote to opt-out only applies to its unincorporated areas.
He said the Psychedelic Alpha map does not include every city in every county and said counties that are yellow may have unlabeled cities within them that are green because those cities are not voting to opt out in the upcoming election.
For anyone undecided on whether they’ll vote to opt-out of Measure 109, Allbee encourages them to visit the Oregon Health Authority’s website to learn more about the new law, psilocybin, and to read a draft of the proposed rules.
The public comment period for the proposed rules remains open until November 21.