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Oregon counties reconsider psilocybin rules despite past voter support

Mushroom Observer
WIkipedia/CC BY-SA 3.0
Oregon voters approved in 2020 the regulated clinical use of psilocybin mushrooms

Oregon voters approved the manufacture and administration of the psychedelic drug psilocybin in 2020, including majorities in Jackson and Deschutes Counties. Now, both are considering putting the question to their voters again this November.

On Wednesday, July 13, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners held a first reading of an ordinance that would prohibit the establishment of psilocybin product manufacturers and service center operators. The ordinance will go to a second reading with public comment on July 27. At that meeting, it will be determined whether the question will be on the ballot in November.

Dave Dotterrer, chair of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners, said despite voter support in 2020, some residents might not actually support the manufacture of psilocybin locally.

“What the people voted on in 2020 was whether or not to make these items legal in the state of Oregon. Now the question is, do you want them to be grown and distributed within Jackson County? That's really the difference,” he said.

The Deschutes County Board of Commissioners also held a two-part public hearing, where 25 people spoke Wednesday afternoon, all of whom were in favor of psilocybin operations. The Board will decide whether to create a ballot measure at its meeting on July 20.

Multiple veterans spoke at the meeting and said the use of psilocybin had revolutionized their treatment of PTSD, depression and anxiety.

Adam DeHeer of Bend compared the percentage of voters in Deschutes County who voted in favor of psilocybin in 2020, which was nearly 53%, to the percentage of voters who elected each commissioner, which ranged from approximately 50 to 52%.

“There is actually more support for this measure in this county than for any one of you as county commissioners. So should we have a recall for your positions? Because that kind of seems absurd and a waste of our time," he said. “Voters have already told you what we want, and it’s your job to administer our decisions.”

Stephanie Barss, a member of the Oregon Health Authority’s Psilocybin Advisory Board, said psilocybin "has enormous potential for our residents" and questioned why the matter was being brought up again, given "the voters have already made their decision."

Alison Hohengarten, an attorney in Bend, said, "I think there's a lot of people in our community that really support this."

Patti Adair, Chair of the Deschutes County Board of Commissioners, said she still has questions for the state about land use regulations.

“We’d like to know what the rules are,” Adair said in an interview.

When asked how sending the ballot question back to voters in November would answer those questions, she said, “Well, if they voted for it again.”

Other counties in Southern Oregon that voted against psilocybin in 2020 are also considering creating a psilocybin ballot measure this November, including Klamath and Douglas counties.

“We're not the only ones who think that this is the kind of important issue that local communities should make their own decisions. We consider this to be an important issue that should go to the voters and let the voters make the decision on this,” Dotterrer said.

The Oregon Health Authority’s Psilocybin Advisory Board is holding three listening sessions on Zoom on July 13, 14 and 15, focused on licensed premises, facilitator conduct and client and product safety.

Jane Vaughan began her journalism career as a reporter for a community newspaper in Portland, Maine. She's been a producer at New Hampshire Public Radio and worked on WNYC's On The Media. Jane earned her Master's in Journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.