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Sutherlin residents will vote on future of psilocybin businesses in November

A psilocybin mushroom awaits testing at Rose City Laboratories, March 17, 2023.
Kristyna Wentz-Graff
A psilocybin mushroom awaits testing at Rose City Laboratories, March 17, 2023.

Residents of the Douglas County city get to decide on the emerging therapy because a two-year moratorium on these businesses expires at the end of this year.

Psilocybin, found in psychedelic mushrooms, is used to treat mental health issues like PTSD, severe depression and substance use disorders.

It was approved for therapeutic use in Oregon in 2020, the first state in the nation to do so, but municipalities are allowed to govern its use within their borders.

On Monday, the Sutherlin City Council voted to ask voters this fall whether or not psilocybin-related businesses should be allowed locally.

The Council also voted to prohibit psilocybin-related businesses in the city, but Melanie Masterfield, the Sutherlin city recorder, said that has no effect on the current moratorium, and the issue will still head to voters.

"The way the election process works when a topic needs to go on the ballot – first an ordinance needs to be passed with according to what Council believes is in the best interest of the community. In this case, our council does not want to allow psilocybin facilities in the city so therefore the ordinance reads as such," she wrote in an email. "It’s all in formality for the election process to put a subject on the ballot."

Masterfield said if voters approve psilocybin businesses in November, there would still be restrictions on where in the city they could be.

"Because of how the city is designed and outlined, there’s very minimal places that a facility could go. We do have code development restrictions and guidelines that would have to be followed. So one just couldn’t go anywhere," she said in an interview.

Psilocybin businesses include licensed manufacturers, laboratories and service centers, where the drug can be consumed.

About two-thirds of Sutherlin residents voted to temporarily ban psilocybin businesses within city limits in a 2022 moratorium.

Masterfield said when that moratorium was approved, the city still had a lot of questions about the drug.

"It came through legislation so fast, we didn’t really know anything about it and what it was and what the pros and cons were," she said.

A variety of groups, including veterans’ organizations, support its therapeutic use, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration designated psilocybin as a breakthrough therapy for treatment resistant depression and major depressive disorder. Opponents of psilocybin use are concerned about potential negative side effects and say more research needs to be conducted.

In 2016, voters in the city banned recreational and medical marijuana sales and businesses.

This fall, Sutherlin voters will get another say in whether or not psilocybin businesses will be allowed in the city. Whichever decision the voters make will take effect on Jan. 1, 2025, and will be permanent.

Jane Vaughan is a regional reporter for Jefferson Public Radio. Jane 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.