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Jackson County considers psilocybin regulations ahead of Nov. 8 vote

Jackson County will vote on the use of psilocybin once more on Nov. 8.

On Thursday, the Jackson County Planning Commission considered where operations for the psychedelic drug psilocybin could be allowed in the county, if approved by voters.

At the public hearing, the commission considered amendments to the county’s land development ordinance to add what's known as "time, place, and manner" restrictions for psilocybin. The amendments would create zoning restrictions for a variety of psilocybin uses, from manufacturing and processing to testing and administering.

Many residents disagreed with the proposed zoning for service centers, the sites where the drug could be administered, which would be restricted to general commercial zones.

Solomon Panitz said the centers should also be allowed in rural areas to encourage a closer relationship with nature.

"I think having a service center in a non-commercial area in a more rural retreat environment is more peaceful. To, say, put a psychiatrist’s office in the middle of a metal shop with noise going on is not appropriate," he said.

The zoning proposals "knock out any chance of a rural retreat," said Mike Arnold, the CEO of Silo Wellness, which hopes to operate a psilocybin retreat center in Jackson County. The proposed regions where service centers would be allowed "just wouldn’t really work very well for getting people in touch with nature," he said.

Other residents said the centers should not be allowed in rural areas.

"I have some serious concerns to having these retreat-style facilities in a rural community. If I were to call 911 in rural Jackson County, the response time for the sheriff is far less desirable by nature than it would be in the city of Medford," said Amanda Hurley.

Voters in Ashland and Medford have opted into allowing psilocybin within city limits.

Oregonians voted to legalize the use of the psychedelic drug psilocybin in supervised facilities in 2020. But 27 of the state’s 36 counties now have the issue on their ballots again, which was a provision of the original voter initiative. Jackson County will vote on whether or not psilocybin should be allowed in the county on November 8. If voters choose not to allow it, the zoning considerations under discussion would be moot.

County Council Joel Benton said the restrictions will be needed if the community opts in, since the Oregon Health Authority will begin accepting applications for licenses in January.

"This case right now is, if psilocybin is allowed in Jackson County, the question before the Planning Commission is, what are the rules and regulations related to that? So the Planning Commission does not have the ability to propose prohibiting all psilocybin," he said.

The public hearing on the proposed ordinance amendments will be continued next week.

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.