Scappoose won't ask voters to ban psilocybin service centers
Scappoose city councilors won't send a ballot measure banning psilocybin manufacturers and treatment centers to voters in November.
In 2020, Oregonians approved a ballot measure making the state the first to allow the use of psilocybin — the hallucinogenic chemical in some mushrooms — in licensed service centers.
Cities and counties can opt out of allowing psilocybin manufacturers and service centers if voters agree in a general election.
Scappoose city councilors did not refer a possible ban or moratorium to voters, but asked city staff to bring back options for potential time, place and manner restrictions.
The Oregon Health Authority will start issuing licenses in January.
Columbia County voters narrowly approved the statewide measure in 2020 by just a 520-vote margin. Scappoose voters supported the measure by a wider margin, with 54% of voters in support.
The measure applies statewide, not just in jurisdictions where the majority of voters supported it.
This month, Scappoose city staff expressed concerns with the Oregon Health Authority's rollout of the rules and regulations for the facilities.
The 2020 measure was viewed as a way to treat mental health issues like depression, but the law does not require that psilocybin only be provided to people with diagnosed mental health issues or to be administered only by licensed medical professionals. The initial subset of rules concerning psilocybin — while other rules are still being developed — was adopted in May and requires 120 hours of instruction for an administrator license.
Though psilocybin is still considered a Schedule I drug, the Food and Drug Administration granted companies researching psilocybin treatment "breakthrough therapy" status in recent years, signaling a growing awareness of the substance's potential for treating mental illness.
But many of the rules governing the psilocybin service centers — like any rules concerning hours of operation or people driving away from the centers while still under the influence — have yet to be finalized.
"The voters already voted on it, but there's a lot that the voters didn't know," Scappoose City Councilor Tyler Miller said. "There's a lot they don't know now — there's a lot we don't know.
"I don't know how the public and the voters are expected to make any informed decision here because there's nothing to inform them on. It's missing a lot of key information," Miller said.
Peter Watts, the city's attorney, said the law and regulations imposed by the OHA, including the city's ability to regulate the operations, are unclear.
"I have a lot of concerns with the statutory scheme that the state seems to adopt and our inability to regulate it. But the statutes internally are inconsistent," Watts told councilors on Monday, Aug. 8. "I really wish they would delay the onset of this until we can get a full handle."
City staff said the law only allowed two-year moratoriums, but other cities and counties have initiated ballot measures that would institute permanent bans.
Councilor Pete McHugh said he voted for the 2020 measure.
"I felt anything we could do to improve mental health in our state, I'm all for. But it just seems to me, as I look at these regulations, it's very weakly regulated," McHugh said.
Councilor Brandon Lesowske repeatedly noted that Scappoose voters already approved the measure. The original measure was passed during a presidential general election, when voter turnout is higher, meaning a large portion of Scappoose voters weighed in on the psilocybin measure. The upcoming midterm election will likely have lower turnout, Lesowske noted.
Miller said his primary concern was "how do we best position the city to be able to do what's best for the city of Scappoose, the community, should we need to?"
Other city council members either voiced confusion about the measure or did not weigh in.
St. Helens city councilors did refer a ban to voters. Columbia County commissioners will consider a similar ballot measure this week.
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