This was originally published on our sister paper The Portland Mercury's blog Blogtown. We are very jealous and wish this was on our ballot in Washington. —Eds. Note
Oregon voters will likely have a chance to legalize the therapeutic use of psilocybin—the hallucinogen found in magic mushrooms—this November.
On Monday, supporters of a proposed statewide ballot measure, which would allow licensed facilitators to administer psilocybin to patients, announced they had gained enough signatures to make it onto the November 2020 ballot. The group backing the measure, Psilocybin Therapy Initiative, say they believe legalized therapeutic psilocybin could help treat Oregonians who struggle with addiction, depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.
“As a therapist, I am intimately aware of how mental health affects our communities—not only people suffering from mental health conditions, but their families and loved ones as well,” said Sheri Eckert, the initiative’s co-chair, said in a press release. “I also know that the options we have to help those people are just not enough.”
If approved, the ballot measure would make Oregon a trailblazer for therapeutic psilocybin in the United States. While the drug has been recently decriminalized in Denver, Oakland, and Santa Cruz, California, no state has legalized psilocybin for medical purposes yet. Activists in California are also pursuing a 2020 ballot measure.
For decades, research into the potential health benefits of psilocybin has been tightly limited by the federal government. However, the research that does exist suggests that it can be useful in treating a broad range of mental health issues, including depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Under the framework of the ballot measure, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) would train and certify psilocybin facilitators—people who administer the drug—who would operate psilocybin “service centers.” Each psilocybin recipient would be screened for risk factors before taking the substance, be under supervision while under the influence, and would take part in an evaluation after the effects wear off.
The ballot measure would also create the Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board, which would advise OHA on what type of training and qualifications facilitators should have, along with other specific requirements for psilocybin use. A similar OHA advisory board exists for medicinal cannabis in Oregon.
Oregon ballot measures need at least 160,000 signatures of support by the July 2 deadline; Psilocybin Therapy Initiative has gathered 164,782 so far. The final signatures will need to be reviewed by the Secretary of State’s office before the measure is officially okayed for the ballot.
Two other related ballot measures are in the works for the November ballot—one to decriminalize possession of psilocybin and other psychedelics in Portland, and another that aims to decriminalize all drug possession through Oregon.