By Robert Ham
Oregon voters will probably get to vote this November on whether to legalize the therapeutic use of hallucinogenic mushrooms.
The Psilocybin Therapy Initiative announced Monday it had gathered enough signatures to get a measure legalizing psilocybin therapy on the November ballot. The practice involves the use of the compound found in hallucinogenic mushrooms to treat mental health problems like depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The campaign gathered 164,782 signatures from Oregonians—likely to be above the 160,000 valid signatures needed to include the initiative in the Nov. 3 election. The Oregon Secretary of State's Office must validate the signatures before the measure officially makes the ballot.
If passed, it would make Oregon the first state to allow supervised psilocybin therapy.
"We believe Oregonians deserve access to psilocybin therapy as another treatment option," said Tom Eckert, a licensed psychotherapist and one of the petitioners of the initiative, in a press release. "We've designed an initiative that can bring it to them safely, in controlled settings."
The therapy involves giving patients small amounts of psilocybin in a controlled setting under the guidance of a trained therapist. The typical dose is between 10 and 25 milligrams, usually not enough to induce full-bore hallucinations, but the perfect amount to potentially, as one writer put it in Psychology Today, "reset the functional connectivity of brain circuits known to play a key role in depression."
Clinical trials have offered up such positive results that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave psilocybin therapy the status of a "breakthrough therapy" in 2019, meaning that research points to a treatment that may prove far more successful than current methods.
If the measure makes it to the November ballot, it would stipulate that licenses would be required for anyone wishing to administer psilocybin therapy, or cultivate or service therapists with the compound. The requirements to receive such licenses would be administered by the Oregon Health Authority, as part of a rule-making process that would take two years to complete.
Potential recipients of the therapy would also need to go through a screening process to rule out risk factors before undertaking a supervised therapy session. They would also need to undergo an evaluation afterward to discuss the effects of the treatment.
The Psilocybin Therapy Initiative is also quick to point out that this ballot measure would not legalize "magic mushrooms" in Oregon. But that is the hope of the Drug Policy Alliance, which had its own successful drive for a ballot measure that would decriminalize the noncommercial possession of all illegal drugs in the state, including psilocybin mushrooms.
With only 112,020 signatures of Oregonians needed to bring that measure before voters in November, the DPA collected over 163,000.
In both cases, petitioners now await the secretary of state to validate the signatures.