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Two councilors and a future councilor say they are against banning psilocybin

PMG FILE PHOTO - Lake Oswego City Council decided to table decision on whether to ban psilocybin during a meeting Tuesday, Nov. 15.

After learning more about the benefits of psilocybin treatment and considering the potentially imminent need among those experiencing depression or substance abuse, the Lake Oswego City Council is reconsidering its plan to ban the manufacture or treatment of the hallucinogenic drug until it creates its own set of regulations.

During a meeting where it was slated to institute a ban Tuesday, Nov. 15, the council instead moved the issue to its next meeting as staff gathers more information about the consequences of eschewing the ban. Overall, however, the council was split on the issue.

Measure 109 legalized the manufacturing, sale and administration of psilocybin — which studies have shown can effectively treat behavioral disorders — in Oregon, but the bill included an opt-out clause for cities and counties. In cities that implement a ban, voters will have the opportunity to reverse the decision via a ballot initiative in the 2024 election.

Mayor Joe Buck said it wasn't clear to him what local regulations would need to be implemented locally to warrant a ban, and ultimately he felt that the cost of delaying would be too great for him to vote for the ban. He also noted that 58% of residents in Lake Oswego precincts voted for Measure 109.

"People don't have time. There's people dying today … I cannot support passing this ordinance and putting it off for two years," he said.

Councilor Aaron Rapf also said he could not support the ban, noting that a close friend dealing with mental health issues had killed himself. And future councilor Al Afghan — who has the most votes in the recent City Council election and works for a pharmaceutical company — asked the council not to approve the ordinance at the meeting. He said that traditional medications sometimes do not work for patients suffering from behavioral disorders.

"This is another therapy. This is not like you go to the weed shop and buy (a) mushroom. This is a well-controlled process, regulated, that provides options for those who cannot take the traditional medication. Veterans, police officers need this therapy," he said.

If it decides not to ban psilocybin, the council could still consider local regulations in the future.

Councilor Massene Mboup, on the other hand, held firm on his skepticism about the parameters put forth by the state — particularly that the minimum requirement for those administering the treatment included having a GED or high school diploma (along with many hours of training). He also posited that the treatment would only be affordable for privileged people.

"What we are talking about is the logistics of having this thing in our community before it goes south," Mboup said, adding that there are other ways to help those experiencing mental health issues outside of psilocybin.

Sam Chapman, the executive director of the Healing Advocacy Fund, said that allowing people beyond medical professionals to administer the treatment is a feature rather than a bug of the plan. The facilitators, he added, would simply be sitting with patients in a room while they undergo the treatment and would not be providing medical services.

"It would be unaffordable (if they required that medical professionals conduct the treatment), just as health care is for a lot of underserved populations right now," Chapman said.

Councilor Jackie Manz was also concerned that the treatment would not be affordable to many, adding that she wanted more data and knowledge about the treatment and who would have access to it before allowing it in the community.

Council President John Wendland said he felt unprepared to take a vote as he did not know the ramifications of the decision yet.

When asked about the downside of not implementing a ban, interim city attorney Evan Boone said that the Oregon Health Authority could begin receiving applications for service centers Jan. 2 and those centers could operate in a commercial zone. However, he said he wanted to verify details with the OHA.

Chapman said at the meeting that service centers in Oregon would likely not be operational until around the middle of next year. He felt the city had time to implement "time, place and manner" ordinances before facilities were up and running, without implementing a ban.

In the case of marijuana, the council passed an ordinance in 2016 that would have allowed for its production, testing and retail with certain restrictions. However, the ordinance would only have gone into effect if residents voted to get rid of a ban that was in place. Voters kept the ban and marijuana facilities remain illegal in Lake Oswego.

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