Voters in Oregon approved Measure 109, an initiative to make psilocybin therapy legal and accessible across the state of Oregon, with a double-digit margin. A “yes” vote supported authorizing the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to create a program to permit licensed service providers to administer psilocybin-producing mushroom and fungi products to individuals 21 years of age or older.
Psychedelic substances, including Psilocybin (aka Magic Mushrooms), are currently classified as Schedule I controlled substances per Federal Law. Measure 109, also referred as the Psilocybin Services Act, is a significant milestone in the full legalization of plant-derived entheogens and psychedelics.
Vote Yes on 109, a campaign in favor of Measure 109 organized by the Oregon Psilocybin Society (OPS), highlighted the promising results of medical research and clinical studies from renowned research institutions like Johns Hopkins, UCLA, and NYU.
It appears to be uniquely effective in treating depression, end-of-life anxiety, and addiction. A recent study from NYU showed that psilocybin therapy significantly reduced depression and anxiety symptoms in 80 percent of the cancer patient participants, with few side effects. More studies have followed and medical psilocybin appears to be on track to get FDA approval in the coming years.VoteYeson109.org
How did Measure 109 change psilocybin laws in Oregon?
Measure 109 created a program for administering psilocybin products, such as psilocybin-producing mushrooms and fungi, to individuals aged 21 years or older. The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) will be responsible for establishing the program and creating regulations. OHA has a two-year period to develop the program.
8) During a two-year program development period, the authority should:
(a) Examine, publish, and distribute to the public available medical, psychological, and scientific studies, research, and other information relating to the safety and efficacy of psilocybin in treating mental health conditions; and
(b) Adopt rules and regulations for the eventual implementation of a comprehensive regulatory framework that will allow persons 21 years of age and older in this state to be provided psilocybin services; andMeasure 109, SECTION 1 (8)
The measure also outlines the creation of an Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board (OPAB) within the OHA to oversee and advise this process.
Under Measure 109, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) determines who is eligible to be licensed as a facilitator, determine what qualifications, education, training, and exams are needed, and create a code of professional conduct for facilitators. OHA would set psilocybin dosage standards and labeling and packaging rules. Clients would be allowed to purchase, possess, and consume psilocybin at a psilocybin service center and under the supervision of a psilocybin service facilitator after undergoing a preparation session.
Measure 109 allowed cities and counties to place referendums on local ballots to prohibit or allow psilocybin-product manufacturers or psilocybin service centers in unincorporated areas within their jurisdictions. The measure prohibited psilocybin service centers within the limits of an incorporated city or town.
What is psilocybin?
The initiative defines psilocybin products as “psilocybin-producing fungi and mixtures or substances containing a detectable amount of psilocybin.”
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), psilocybin is a “hallucinogenic chemical obtained from certain types of fresh and dried mushrooms.” The mushrooms containing psilocybin are also known as magic mushrooms, hallucinogenic mushrooms, or shrooms. As of 2020, psilocybin was classified as a Schedule I drug by the DEA. According to the Controlled Substance Act passed in 1971, Schedule I drugs are not approved for medical use and have a high potential for abuse and dependence. Drug Policy Alliance, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that actively promotes drug policy reform legislation, said that psilocybin is not addictive because “the human body quickly builds tolerance to psilocybin, such that people require much higher doses after only a few days of repeated use, making it extremely difficult to have any effect after more than four days of repeated usage.”
In 2019, the FDA designated psilocybin therapy as a breakthrough therapy for two clinical trials being facilitated by Compass Pathways and Usona Institute studying the effects of psilocybin on severe depression and major depressive disorder. The designation is meant to “expedite the development and review of drugs that are intended to treat a serious condition.”
Who is behind the campaigns surrounding the initiative?
The Oregon Psilocybin Society (OPS) led the Yes on 109 campaign. The OPS was founded in 2016 by Portland psychotherapists Tom and Sheri Eckert to “raise awareness about the safety and benefits of controlled ‘Psilocybin Services.'” The Oregon Psilocybin Society said, “A growing body of evidence demonstrates that psilocybin-assisted therapy is safe and uniquely effective. We think that this novel approach could help alleviate the mental health crisis here in Oregon by addressing costly epidemics like suicide, treatment-resistant depression and anxiety, PTSD, and addiction to drugs, alcohol, and nicotine.”
There were two ballot measure committees—PSI 2020 and Yes for Psilocybin Therapy—registered in support of Measure 109. The committees reported receiving a total of $5.3 million in cash and in-kind contributions. The largest contributor was the New Approach PAC with over $3.5 million in contributions. It is a 527 nonprofit organization that supports progressive initiatives, especially initiatives that seek to legalize medical and recreational marijuana.
Regulations Psilocybin Licensing
Per the Psilocybin Services Act, on or before January 2, 2023, the Oregon Health Authority shall begin receiving applications for the licensing of persons to:
- Manufacture psilocybin products;
- Operate a psilocybin service center;
- Facilitate psilocybin services; and
- Test psilocybin products.
Further details about general licensing requirements for each specific license
A New Wave of Legalization Across The Country?
With Measure 109, Oregon has become the first state to legalize the use of psilocybin products through licensed therapeutic centers. Though Measure 109 doesn’t legalize the possession, manufacturing, and consumption of psilocybin outside of service centers, this measure is still a historic first step. On November 3, 2020, Oregon voters also approved Measure 110 in November that made personal/non-commercial possession of a controlled substance, including psilocybin, no more than a Class E violation with a maximum penalty of a $100 fine or a completed health assessment.
Denver, Colorado, approved Initiated Ordinance 301 in 2019 with 50.64% of the vote. The ordinance made the adult possession and use of psilocybin mushrooms the lowest law enforcement priority in Denver and prohibited the city from spending resources on enforcing related penalties.
Washington, D.C., voters decided an initiative in November 2020 to declare that police treat the non-commercial cultivation, distribution, possession, and use of entheogenic plants and fungi as among the lowest law enforcement priorities.
Three other cities—Oakland, Santa Cruz, and Ann Arbor—have also decriminalized psilocybin through local ordinances.
With the latest research from leading institutions showcasing the beneficial and therapeutic effects of psilocybin, medical psilocybin might be on track to get FDA approval in the coming years. Similar to the legalization of medical cannabis–33 states already have legal regimes–it’s only a matter of time before other states, including California, decriminalize and legalize psilocybin as well as other entheogenic plants and fungi.