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Many cities, counties opt out of Oregon psilocybin program

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By PETER WONG
Oregon Capital Bureau

Voters in many Oregon cities and counties have decided to ban or delay approval of places to grow and supervise the use of psilocybin mushrooms for therapeutic purposes.

But except for Clackamas County and a handful of small communities, such restrictions were not on the Nov. 8 ballots in most of the Portland metro area.

The upshot is that almost all of Oregon’s most populous counties and 17 of its 20 largest cities will be open to state-licensed cultivation sites and supervised centers for use of the psychoactive drug.

“Up to 2.9 million Oregonians will have access to the breakthrough treatment in their local city or county,” Sam Chapman, executive director of the Healing Advocacy Fund, said in a statement. “And in places where a ban was passed, some of those are temporary.”

Chapman was the campaign manager for the 2020 ballot initiative (Measure 109) that Oregon voters approved in 2020 to set up a state program involving the supervised use of psilocybin. The Healing Advocacy Fund is a nonprofit that promotes the program.

In 23 of Oregon’s 36 counties and 111 of its 241 cities, voters decided Nov. 8 to opt out of the state program or impose two-year pauses on approvals under terms of the 2020 ballot measure. The Oregon Health Authority has unveiled a final set of draft rules, and it will start accepting applications after the rules become final early in 2023. Because the agency will have to review the applications before it issues licenses, actual startups are likely to take place next fall or winter.

In addition to the state requirements, cities and counties can still regulate cultivation sites, known as “manufacturing facilities,” and supervised use at service centers, under time, place and manner standards in land-use ordinances.

As a nonprofit, the Healing Advocacy Fund took no direct role in the campaigns on the local opt-out ballot measures.

Opt-out votes

City councils and county boards of commissioners, under terms of Measure 109, were required to refer proposed bans or pauses to voters in a general election.

They included six counties where voters approved Measure 109: Clackamas, Clatsop, Curry, Deschutes, Jackson and Tillamook. Opt-out measures won in Clackamas, Clatsop, Curry and Tillamook counties, plus 19 others where voters rejected the original Measure 109, most of them east of the Cascades.

Voters rejected opt-out measures in Deschutes and Jackson counties, plus Douglas and Josephine counties, where majorities rejected the statewide measure.

All the county measures affect only areas outside city limits.

Of Oregon’s 20 largest cities, opt-out measures were on the ballot in only three, and all were approved: Keizer, McMinnville and Redmond, where voters decided separate measures for licensed cultivation and supervised-use centers.

Aside from Clackamas County, metro area cities where opt-out measures were on the ballot: Estacada, Molalla and Sandy, and Banks and Cornelius. All passed. (Molalla, Sandy and Cornelius passed bans; the others were pauses.)

Neither Washington nor Multnomah counties referred a countywide measure, nor did Columbia or Yamhill counties.

Advocates of psilocybin put much of their efforts into opposing the opt-out measures in Deschutes and Jackson counties, although the largest cities within them — Bend, Medford and Ashland — did not propose restrictions of their own.

Chapman had this to say about the results:

“Based on our experience in Deschutes and Jackson counties, we know that when people in a given community hear from their friends and neighbors about the potential of psilocybin therapy for widespread mental challenges like anxiety and depression, they are much more likely to support it.

“We’re confident that as this program rolls out and people begin to understand the potential, more communities will realize that providing access for their residents is important.”

Measure 109

Unlike marijuana legalization that Oregon voters approved in 2014, Measure 109 does not make legal adult possession and use of psilocybin mushrooms, does not allow their cultivation by individuals, and does not allow retail sales through dispensaries.

Psilocybin can be grown only in state-licensed production facilities — which must be compatible with local land-use requirements — and administered only at “service centers,” also licensed, by facilitators who have undergone 120 hours of training. They do not have to be medical personnel, and they are not considered therapists.

Psilocybin cannot be taken home, either from production facilities or service centers.

Service centers must be at least 1,000 feet from schools, and cannot be within residential zones within cities. Manufacturing cannot be in buildings or zones for residential use.

Though listed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2019 as a breakthrough therapy, psilocybin is still classified under federal law as a drug with no accepted medical use. But several studies have indicated that it may be useful in treating addiction, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Results from a study at Columbia University are pending.

Vote in Colorado

Colorado became the nation’s first state Nov. 8 to legalize psilocybin and a related compound (psilocin) for personal cultivation, use and sharing by people 21 and older. The ballot measure also authorizes a state-supervised program that appears similar to Oregon’s.

“Colorado, like Oregon, is an example of how voters support this therapy when given access to the research and when they hear personal stories from veterans and others about the effectiveness of psilocybin therapy to address a mental health crisis,” Chapman said.

“As the first state in the country to enact psilocybin therapy, we take very seriously our work to ensure access, affordability and safety to the people who will use this therapy. We deliberately took two years with a body of experts — the Psilocybin Advisory Board — to develop a solid regulatory framework to help us reach those goals.”

Voters in Washington, D.C., approved a 2020 measure that assigns lowest priority to psilocybin enforcement, though direct sales are not permitted under the ordinance. Other cities have similar measures, and decriminalization bills have been proposed in several states, though none has passed the Legislature.

Election results

Results for city and county opt-out elections Nov. 8 for Oregon’s psilocybin program, either permanent bans or two-year pauses:

Counties:

Restrictions passed in 23 counties, failed in four counties, all affecting areas outside cities. (Josephine County voters rejected separate bans on manufacturing and service centers.) The other nine counties had no measures on the ballot.

Cities:

Restrictions passed in 111 cities (Redmond had two measures), failed in five cities. They were Mill City, Myrtle Creek, Phoenix, Riddle and Roseburg. Other cities had no measures on the ballot.

Results in select areas:

Washington County:

No countywide measure; Banks, pause passed; Cornelius, ban passed.

Clackamas County:

Countywide measure, pause passed, applicable to unincorporated areas; Molalla and Sandy, bans passed; Estacada, pause passed.

Columbia County:

No countywide measure; Clatskanie, St. Helens, pauses passed.

Yamhill County:

No countywide measure; Newberg, ban passed; McMinnville, Amity, Carlton, Dundee, Sheridan, Willamina, all pauses passed.

Marion County:

Countywide measure, ban passed; Aumsville, Keizer, St. Paul, Stayton, Sublimity, Turner, Woodburn, all bans passed; Mill City, ban failed; Gates, Hubbard, Jefferson, all pauses passed.

Deschutes County:

Countywide measure, pause failed; La Pine, ban passed; Redmond (two measures), ban on production, pause on service centers, both passed.

Crook County:

Countywide measure, ban passed; Prineville, ban passed.

Jefferson County:

Countywide measure, ban passed; Culver, Madras, Metolius, bans passed.

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