Opt-outs for psilocybin plan to be on many ballots Nov. 8
Many Oregon voters will decide Nov. 8 whether their counties or cities will ban or delay approval of places to grow and supervise the use of psilocybin mushrooms in connection with mental health treatment.
But with the exception of Clackamas County and a handful of small communities, most metro area voters will not decide such measures.
The opt-out elections are permitted under terms of the 2020 statewide initiative, known as Measure 109, that sets up a state program for licensed cultivation and supervised use of the psychoactive drug. The Oregon Health Authority is expected to start accepting applications in early 2023, after the rules are made final, although startups are unlikely to begin until fall or winter next year.
Twenty-seven of Oregon's 36 counties — including Clackamas County and five others where majorities voted in favor of the 2020 statewide measure — and about 100 cities have referred permanent bans or two-year pauses to their voters. The county measures would apply only to areas outside cities.
In addition to Clackamas County, metro area cities where bans or pauses are on the ballot are Estacada, Molalla and Sandy, and Banks and Cornelius. Proposed bans in Molalla, Sandy and Cornelius would be permanent, though reversible in a future general election; the proposed pauses elsewhere are for two years through the end of 2024.
Of Oregon's 20 largest cities, only Keizer, McMinnville and Redmond have referred opt-out measures. Redmond is the only city with two measures: A permanent ban on cultivation, but a two-year ban on service centers.
Neither Washington nor Multnomah counties has referred a countywide measure.
A "yes" vote would impose a ban or pause; a "no" vote would allow manufacturing facilities and service centers, as the law defines them.
Wait and see?h3>
"I think there are a lot of folks who need a primer of what this measure is and is not and how it benefits their local communities," said Sam Chapman, who was the campaign manager for Measure 109 and now is executive director of the Healing Advocacy Fund, a nonprofit that supports its implementation but isn't taking sides in the current election.
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.
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 major study at Columbia University are pending.
Clackamas County Commissioner Martha Schrader voiced the concerns of elected officials who want to wait until the Oregon Health Authority makes all the rules final by the end of this year.
"We need to make sure that if this moves forward, it is implemented in a way that people feel safe," she said July 28, when the board referred a two-year pause to voters.
Of the 27 counties with opt-out measures, Clackamas County is the most populous of six where majorities approved the 2020 statewide measure but referred local measures to voters. The others: Clatsop, Curry, Deschutes, Jackson and Tillamook. In the other 21 counties, majorities opposed Measure 109.
Other officials speak
The issue split the three commissioners in Deschutes County. Commissioner Phil Chang was on the short end of a 2-1 vote for referral after public hearings.
"All of these people told us this was an effective treatment for a variety of behavioral health conditions," he said Aug. 23 during a conference call with reporters. "Counties are not just land use authorities, They are also mental health authorities for their communities. I really want the people of my community to have access to effective treatments. A lot of people see this as the next front on the war on drugs."
But Chang said he has spoken his piece.
"I did my job deliberating on the issue and being on the minority end of sending the measure to the voters," he said. "But I am tracking advocacy efforts on both sides."
If voters reject the county's opt-out measure, Chang said that unlike cannabis legalization, he does not foresee a rush of applications for the psilocybin program.
"This is a niche, cottage-industry opportunity in my mind," he said. "I would see applications in proportion to that."
Commissioner Casey Kulla said the debate in Yamhill County was influenced by psilocybin's potential as an alternative for mental health treatment. "It was clearly influential (for us) not sending anything to the ballot," Kulla said on the Aug. 23 conference call.
Though there is no countywide measure, Newberg has proposed a permanent ban, and six cities within the county have two-year pauses on the ballot: McMinnville, Amity, Carlton, Dundee, Sheridan and Willamina.
Measure 109 still allows counties and cities that allow production facilities and service centers to apply planning requirements affecting their time, place and manner.
"I suspect it will be a conditional use," Kulla said, a permit for which allows the county to impose conditions and restrictions beyond what Measure 109 states.
He said manufacturing will be considered a farm use, for which state law specifies a lot of conditions. But cultivation of psilocybin mushrooms is considered less intensive than marijuana in terms of soil, water and power usage.
"These facilities will blend into our rural communities," Kulla said, and are expected to generate some jobs in addition to those in service centers.
Where opt-out elections for Oregon's psilocybin program, either permanent bans or two-year pauses, will take place Nov. 8. NOTE: Pamplin Media Group circulation areas only.
Multnomah County:No measures.
Washington County: No countywide measure; Banks, pause; Cornelius, ban.
Clackamas County: Countywide measure, pause, applicable to unincorporated areas; Molalla and Sandy, ban; Estacada, pause.
Columbia County: No countywide measure; Clatskanie, St. Helens, pauses.
Yamhill County: No countywide measure; Newberg, ban; McMinnville, Amity, Carlton, Dundee, Sheridan, Willamina, all pauses.
Marion County: Countywide measure, ban; Aumsville, Keizer, Mill City, St. Paul, Stayton, Sublimity, Turner, Woodburn, all bans; Gates, Hubbard, Jefferson, all pauses.
Deschutes County: Countywide measure, pause; La Pine, ban; Redmond (two measures), ban on production, pause on service centers.
Crook County: Countywide measure, ban; Prineville, ban.
Jefferson County: Countywide measure, ban; Culver, Madras, Metolius, bans.
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