Here’s what to expect with legal shrooms

With election, municipalities across Oregon can vote to prohibit psilocybin-related businesses

On Nov. 8, the City of Dunes City joins Junction City, Cottage Grove and Coburg in Lane County in asking their residents to approve a ban on psilocybin-related businesses. The News-Times spoke to Angela Allbee, who heads the Oregon Health Authority section in charge of rolling out and supervising the state’s legal psilocybin (“magic mushroom”) program beginning next year, to learn how Measure 109 will be implemented, from the growing of psychedelic fungi to its ingestion in a supervised setting.

Oregon voters actually approved two very different ballot measures in 2020 that both technically affect how hallucinogenic mushrooms are treated in the state, both firsts of their kind in the U.S.

Measure 110 decriminalized small amounts of all drugs, including psilocybin, the psychoactive compound contained in hundreds of species of fungus. Possession of psilocybin is still illegal under Measure 110, it is simply not a crime but rather a violation, similar to (though with a lesser penalty than) a traffic infraction.

Measure 109 legalized manufacture and use of psilocybin products in licensed facilities for supervised sessions with a state-approved, trained facilitator. It does not allow dispensing psilocybin for use outside licensed facilities or for home cultivation, and clients must be age 21 or older.

Psilocybin has shown substantial promise and is recently gaining increased mainstream acceptance as a therapeutic tool for people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and extreme anxiety, among other mental health conditions. It’s also been a part of holistic Indigenous cultural and spiritual practices for centuries.

Measure 109 created the Oregon Psilocybin Services section of the Oregon Health Authority to oversee the program and mandated that it finalize rules by the end of this year to start taking applications from prospective producers and providers on Jan. 2, 2023.

The laws also gave municipalities the option of asking voters in the November election whether to postpone local licensing of psilocybin facilities or ban them altogether. Dozens of local governments have opted to do so, including Toledo, whose voters will be asked Nov. 8 if they want to prohibit such facilities in the city until Dec. 21, 2024. Toledo voters approved the original ballot measure 1,259 to 1,049.

The rest of the county, and Toledo depending on the election outcome, will be open for applicants after the first of the year, but don’t expect to make an appointment any time soon — it will be late 2023 before licensing, including training requirements, can be completed.

The psilocybin services section is still finalizing its rules in consultation with the Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board and rulemaking committees. The section’s director, Angela Allbee, previously a policy advisor for the health authority, said Measure 109 authorized the creation of four different kinds of licenses — manufacturers, service centers, testing labs and facilitators. And for the public, it won’t be as simple as walking in and paying to take some shrooms.

“What this looks like is, under Measure 109, a client 21 years of age or older can access psilocybin services,” Allbee said. “But even though they don’t need a prescription or a referral from a provider, they do have to complete a preparation session with a licensed facilitator before they can actually schedule an administration session, which is where the psilocybin is consumed.”

Those licensed facilitators must be at least 21 years old, have a high school diploma or equivalent; complete an approved third-party training program with skills exam and practicum; pass a regulations exam and criminal background check; and pay an annual license fee.

The job of the facilitator is to prepare the client for what they will experience in their psychedelic administration session (this includes discussing issues such as home support and transportation plans for after an administration session). During the second session, when the psilocybin is actually consumed, the facilitator is largely present to keep the client safe and provide reassurance.

Facilitators then give the client the option of an “integration session” to help them tease additional insights from their “trip,” discuss safety and support planning, and perhaps make referrals for other services.

Allbee said clients will have to remain in the licensed service center for a set period of time depending on the potency of their dose, and they won’t be allowed to drive themselves home afterward.

When it comes to the product itself, only one type of the hundreds of psilocybin mushrooms can be grown and sold under the rules — Psilocybe cubensis.

Licensed cultivators can only grow indoors on a designated premise. They can either process the mushrooms themselves or sell them to other licensed manufacturers, and the final product can come in four forms — dried, whole fungi; ground, homogenized fungi that can be in capsules or stirred into tea; an extract; and edible products like chocolate.

Allbee said there will be a limit on the total amount of psilocybin that can be produced to help prevent diversion.

After cultivation and manufacturing, the product must be tested by an accredited, OHA-licensed lab for species identification and potency.

“Once that product clears the testing criteria, then it will be sold to licensed service centers, and licensed service centers will then sell to clients,” Allbee said. “Facilitators will not sell or touch the product.” For statutory and liability reasons, Allbee said, a different service center employee will dispense the product for the client to self-administer during their session with the facilitator. All employees at service centers must be permitted by OHA, be 21 years old and pass a criminal background check.

Cities and counties whose voters don’t opt for bans will still have a say in where service centers and manufacturers operate. Measure 109 allows local governments to create “reasonable time, place and manner” regulations, and applicants for licenses are required to submit land-use compatibility statements approved by the relevant municipality, Allbee said.