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Jackson County sends psilocybin question back to voters

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Jackson County voters approved in 2020 the regulated clinical use of psilocybin mushrooms.

The majority of Jackson County voters approved the use of the psychedelic drug psilocybin in supervised facilities in 2020. But now, the question will return to voters this November.

The Jackson County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously on Wednesday to refer an ordinance to voters for the Nov. 8 general election. The ordinance would prohibit the establishment of psilocybin product manufacturers and service center operators in the unincorporated areas of Jackson County.

It's the latest municipality in Oregon to weigh in on whether Measure 109, which voters approved in 2020, should be revisited by residents at the local level.

The Deschutes County Board of Commissioners also voted last Wednesday to send a similar measure back to voters this November. On the same day, the Ashland City Council voted not to return the question to voters.

Veteran Scott Hicks from Grants Pass spoke during the Jackson County public hearing and said taking the drug changed his life.

"Do not block this from us, I am a veteran and I am asking you, do not block this from us, please," Hicks said, choking up.

Hicks was one of 27 residents who spoke during the hearing, with all but two in favor of psilocybin activities. Multiple veterans spoke about the positive effects psilocybin had on their mental health and urged the board to make sure it will be accessible.

Mental health counselor Drew Snyder said he struggled with PTSD and depression after his time in the Army, and psilocybin "allowed me to deal with many underlying wounds in my psyche.”

Others said psilocybin had helped them recover from addiction, and some planned to open psilocybin facilities to provide services.

“I feel that the citizens of Jackson County have already spoken,” said David French of Ashland. “I just feel that this is a tremendous opportunity for Jackson County.” 

Two residents were against the presence of psilocybin in the county, including Susan Rachor of Central Point. While she said she sympathized with the stories that had been shared, she said, “I do feel like there is another way for us to deal with these issues" and the presence of psilocybin would be "adding one more problem to this community.” 

Commissioners said they wanted to refer the question back to voters, as allowed in the 2020 legislation.

Commissioner Rick Dyer said he wanted to local give voters the chance to make the decision.

"What our job is here today is to ascertain and to identify, are there potential benefits, and are there potential negative impacts to folks with this activity taking place in their communities?" Dyer said. "I think we’ve seen both of those."

Jane Vaughan is a reporter at JPR who previously worked as a producer at New Hampshire Public Radio and as a newspaper reporter in Maine. She's earning her Master's in Journalism at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Chicago. When she's not reporting, she enjoys hiking, reading, and kickboxing.