No psilocybin ban in WashCo after board rejects ordinance
Washington County will not be implementing a temporary ban on psilocybin treatment facilities, as was being weighed by the Board of Commissioners over the past month.
The ban on facilities that treat patients with psilocybin — a psychoactive compound that occurs naturally in certain fungi, often known colloquially as "magic mushrooms" — would have been for up to two years, though voters would have had to approve it on the November ballot for it to go into effect.
An ordinance referring the question to voters failed 3-2 during the board's meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 2.
Commissioners Kathryn Harrington, Pam Treece and Nafisa Fai voted against the ordinance, with Commissioners Jerry Willey and Roy Rogers in favor.
The board shot down the ban against the recommendation of county staff, who said they need more time to configure county rules and policies related to psilocybin facilities.
Oregon voters approved Ballot Measure 109 in 2020, which legalized psilocybin for therapeutic uses, and Washington County voters passed it with even more resounding approval than the statewide figures.
County staff noted that the Oregon Health Authority rules pertaining to Measure 109 aren't due until August or September of this year, allowing just a few months to change the county's codes to address applications for these kinds of treatment facilities.
"I feel it's important to get this right, and I feel we need opportunity for our staff to get this right," said Commissioner Willey. "I think it behooves us. But the flip side of this is that if we put this out to voters and they say no, we're still in the position of giving out licenses come January 1. We're still giving them that option."
In previous discussions on the topic, Willey and some members of staff noted that the ban would expire after two years, and that the commissioners could lift the ban through a motion earlier than that if they wanted to.
But other commissioners felt that the negatives of delaying mental health resources outweighed the pressure on staff to figure out how to handle licensing, permitting and other regulations.
"If there is a motion to proceed, I will be voting no," said Harrington, who was re-elected this spring as Washington County chair. "I've had the opportunity to continue to do very easy research of the provisions as approved by the voters and covered by information available on the Oregon Health Authority's website. … (That information) made it clear to me that such siting of these facilities is not like the marijuana local siting that the previous board of commissioners went through."
There are no retail sales of psilocybin allowed under the state laws, for example. The psychoactive drug can only be used legally under professional supervision, and even then only in specially designated facilities.
The manufacturing of psilocybin products is also strictly regulated, Harrington added.
During the board's July 26 public hearing on the topic, some local mental health professionals and Washington County residents urged commissioners to forgo the proposed ban, citing the public health benefits of psilocybin treatment.
Harrington and others who voted against the ban said the therapeutic uses of psilocybin — for treatment of substance abuse disorders and some traumatic mental health responses — make the treatment facilities important enough to not delay.
"My first question when we brought this up was, 'Is this addictive?'" said Commissioner Nafisa Fai. "And since then, I've heard from a lot of advocates in the community who talked about those who have benefited from this kind of treatment."
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