Language voters will see on the November general election ballot approved by the council

PMG FILE PHOTO - Newberg voters will determine whether a ban on psilocybin services centers by the city will stand or be overturned.

Newberg voters will decide in November whether to accept or reject the city's ban on psilocybin-related businesses as the language on the ballot has been set.

The ballot title for Referral 2022-03 was formulated by City Attorney James Walker and received by the city's elections office, then approved by the City Council and forwarded to the Yamhill County Clerk's Office for inclusion on the Nov. 8 general election ballot. There were no challenges to the title.

When voters open their mail-in ballots they will see this question: Shall the city of Newberg prohibit psilocybin-related businesses in the city?

The attendant summary spells out the background of the referendum: "State law allows for the manufacturing, transportation, delivery, sale and purchase of psilocybin, the psychedelic drug found in certain mushrooms. State law provides that a local government may adopt an ordinance to be referred to the voters to prohibit the establishment of licensed psilocybin product manufacturers and/or psilocybin service centers. The Newberg City Council adopted an ordinance to refer to the voters prohibiting the establishment of psilocybin-related businesses in Newberg and, as a result, has referred this measure to the voters. Approval of the measure would prohibit the establishment of psilocybin product manufacturers and psilocybin service centers within the Newberg city limits."PMG FILE PHOTO - Service centers would administer psilocybin in a controlled environment should the ban be lifted.

The city's action came about after voters approved Measure 109, the Oregon Psilocybin Services Act, in 2020. Measure 109 created a regulatory framework for the production of psilocybin and charged administration of the system to the Oregon Health Authority. The OHA is responsible for writing the rules for production and distribution of the drug via service centers. The measure requires that a physician prescribe micro doses of the drug and that it can be administered only at the service center. It cannot be sold for recreational use from service centers.

The measure also gave communities a role in the form of three choices: take no action, which would require the city to adopt regulations for allowing manufacturers and service centers; enact a permanent ban and refer it to the ballot; enact a two-year moratorium and refer it to the ballot.

After lengthy discussion during its July 18 work session, the council unanimously voted in favor of a permanent ban and referring the question to the voters.

"My preference is that we just ban this completely, let it go to the voters, let them decide," councilor Mike McBride said in July. "I think this is just opening up a box we don't want to deal with."

Councilor Denise Bacon said while she saw the benefits of the drug for medicinal purposes, she was also OK with letting the voters decide the city's path on the issue. "Make it their decision to the future of Newberg and if this is what they want the future of Newberg to be a part of, or not," she said.

What is psilocybin?

That depends on who you ask. The Drug Enforcement Administration considers it a Schedule I controlled substance, which means it has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. Psilocybin is illegal under federal law and a DEA fact sheet says the drug can cause nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness and lack of coordination.

On the other hand, a study by the National Institutes of Health concludes psilocybin-assisted treatment "may have enormous potential in psychiatric medicine, as evidenced by decades of multiple clinical studies."

That NIH study also mentions psilocybin in an uncontrolled "recreational" setting can lead to all the side effects the DEA mentioned, along with what they call a "bad trip."

Ballot Measure 109 does not allow recreational use of psilocybin, only therapy in licensed treatment centers.

The OHA will begin taking applications for licenses in January. Applications for service center and manufacturer licenses are required and must conform to local land use laws. Local governments can adopt regulations on the hours, location and operation of the service centers.

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