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Health and Medicine

Indigenous and drug policy groups seek to preserve traditional approaches as psychedelic markets open in Oregon

Oregon voters approved Measure 109 in November 2020, legalizing the use of psilocybin in supervised facilities. Now the Oregon Health Authority is in the process of creating the program that will go into effect in 2023.
Oregon voters approved Measure 109 in November 2020, legalizing the use of psilocybin in supervised facilities. Now the Oregon Health Authority is in the process of creating the program that will go into effect in 2023.

Indigenous medicine and drug policy groups are joining together to form a new nonprofit. They want to promote and preserve the use of traditional medicines like psychedelic mushrooms, peyote and iboga.

The Indigenous Medicine Conservation Fund wants to raise $20 million to support traditional medicine use around the world. For example, it would help the Yaqui Tribe in Mexico re-establish their traditional use of peyote, ayahuasca and toad. Some tribal members struggling with alcohol and suicide think traditional medicines might be helpful.

The fund’s codirector, Miriam Volat, said the fund is about giving back.

“I would love to see in Oregon where, if you were really benefiting from psilocybin, you’re growing it yourself…that also you’re like: ‘Wow, as my life is getting better from this. What if I just support people who have this heritage relationship with it?’”

Oregon’s new psilocybin system is scheduled to open to the public at the beginning of next year.

A statement from the fund said traditional medicines are threatened by climate change, commercialization, overharvesting and cultural appropriation.

“By partnering with funders globally, and informed by robust ecological and community-based assessments, the Indigenous Medicine Conservation Fund is building alliances with Indigenous-run organizations for a new philanthropic paradigm of right relationship and trust,” Volat said.

In addition to raising funds to support conservation projects in countries such as Brazil, Colombia, Gabon, Mexico and Peru, the fund aims to educate the public, especially the emerging Western psychedelic industry, about threats to traditional medicines.

“We are committed to ensuring the resilience of traditional biocultures and reducing the harm of mounting pressures from psychedelic interest among non-Indigenous people, as well as from ecological crises,” Volat said.

Copyright 2022 Oregon Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit Oregon Public Broadcasting.