By editorial board • 

Entertaining second thoughts on opening floodgates for psilocybin

When we endorsed legalization of psilocybin therapy via 2020’s Measure 109, it was on the basis that micro-doses of the hallucinogenic drug would be administered “by mental health professionals in supervised clinical settings.” We justified that as a “narrow controlled experiment.”

The measure went on to win razor-thin approval in Yamhill County and 56% approval statewide, generating a quarter-of-a-million-vote margin. It was boosted by more than 70% approval in Multnomah County and roughly 60% approval in Washington, Lane, Benton and Hood River counties.

We would hazard to guess yes, voters largely shared our take. But that doesn’t appear to be anything like what we’ll be getting come January, based on an administrative rulemaking process destined for completion by year’s end.

As a result, at least two-thirds of Oregon’s 36 counties and scores of its cities have either permanent bans or two-year moratoriums on this year’s Nov. 8 ballot.

Locally, Newberg is proposing a permanent ban, while Amity, Carlton, Dundee, McMinnville, Sheridan and Willamina are proposing moratoriums. The county is accepting the status quo, as are Dayton, Lafayette and Yamhill.

We think the cities asking voters to grant the two-year moratorium got it right. Here’s why:

The Oregon Health Authority’s new Oregon Psilocybin Services section is moving to allow anyone with a high school diploma and three weeks of training to conduct treatment sessions on anyone over the age of 21. And so far, it has been unable to persuade any Oregon medical or academic institution to sponsor a training program, or, in fact, any accredited educational institution at all.

The impetus for Measure 109 came largely from Veterans Administration studies on PTSD applications.

Those studies featured treatment administered by a team of medical and psychiatric specialists on a study group screened for alcoholism, drug addiction, bi-polar disorder, suicidal family history and adverse health conditions — screening serving to eliminate all but 27 of 820 applicants.

Sadly, it looks like we’re more in line for Uncle Joe in the back room of a vacant local storefront than Dr. Joseph, M.D., in clinic space at the Portland VA Hospital. But given two years of experience in places like Portland and Salem, which have no plans for a pause, we may be able to get a more measured and responsible program in place.

Maybe we should have seen it coming. As Clackamas County moratorium boosters noted in their Voters’ Pamphlet statement, “Oregon has a poor track record of being the first state to implement different measures and policies. M109 is yet another experiment with unknown consequences and side effects.”

Medical marijuana was designed to allow patients in severe pain to seek relief under controlled conditions. Instead, it allowed all comers to acquire cards and consume at will, no questions asked.

Recreational marijuana was designed to cut the cartels out of the action. Instead, it imposed such burdensome testing, taxation, overhead and regulation demands that the cartels were able to flood the market with hundreds of tons of lower-cost product.

Hard drug decriminalization was supposed to drive addicts into treatment with the threat of fines. Instead, it has given addicts a free pass, as they typically have no ability or intention to pay the fines anyway.

It’s just one long saga of good intentions gone awry. And it would be a lot easier to fix if we’d started with small-scale pilot projects instead of going all-in from the outset.

The Oregonian opposed Measure 109 in 2020, saying, “While it’s very possible that psilocybin will become a valuable therapeutic tool in the future, we don’t see the advantage to Oregon being out in front of the rest of the nation.” And it was joined by the American Psychiatric Association, Oregon Medical Association and Oregon Psychiatric Physicians Association.

Thankfully, the measure offered cities and counties a way to opt out until the program finds firmer footing — the moratoriums appearing on many of our Nov. 8 ballots. We think voters should let others blaze the trail and fall in behind later as warranted.

 

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