Tightly regulated use of psychedelic mushrooms is legal in Oregon, but no “service centers”—the offices where people may consume them legally—have been approved by the state.
That’s about to change, says Sam Chapman, executive director of the Healing Advocacy Fund and former campaign manager of the ballot initiative that made supervised use of mushrooms legal. There will likely be a dozen service centers open in Oregon by the end of the year, Chapman said on a call where he and others sought to assure journalists that the program is on track.
“Service centers are right around the corner,” Chapman said.
The lack of service centers has left trip-seeking Oregonians looking to the shroom underground, where growers produce fungi in basement farms using spores and equipment purchased at local outlets or on the internet, and unlicensed facilitators meet clients at home or in Airbnbs.
Oregon requires licenses for producers and testers of psilocybin, the active compound in psychedelic mushrooms, and for facilitators of psychedelic trips. The Oregon Health Authority also requires them to pay annual fees to fund administration of the program. Three producers, one testing lab, and five facilitators have been licensed since Jan. 1, when the process began.
Chapman said there could be 700 certified facilitators in Oregon by year end.
Service centers have been the bottleneck so far, in part because of byzantine regulation and high costs. Cathy Jonas, owner of EPIC Healing Eugene, has chronicled her quest to open a service center on YouTube. Including the $10,000 annual fee, Jonas expects to spend $60,000 to open her doors. Expenses include security cameras, insurance, and a heavy safe to store shrooms.
But Jonas says she’s close. “I don’t have my formal license yet, but everything is cooking along,” Jonas said in an email.
On the call with Chapman, Ryan Reid, president of Drop Thesis, said he will open a combination manufacturing plant and service center in Bend by this summer.
Chapman and Reid sought to assuage concern about the cost of supervised psilocybin. Jonas, for one, plans to charge $3,500 for a fully dosed trip in order to cover her costs.
Reid says the biggest challenge on price is that service centers can’t write off costs like rent and wages the way a typical business does, because psilocybin is illegal under federal law.
Service centers will compensate for that by setting prices 30% higher than they would under a normal corporate tax regime, Reid said on the call. “If a service center charges $3,000, a thousand of that is being reserved to pay the federal government,” he said.
Once it’s up and running, Drop Thesis will be able to host 200 psilocybin sessions per month, Reid said. He expects to employ 25 facilitators, full and part time.
Amanda Gow, co-founder of Bendable Therapy in Bend, says she set up her business as a nonprofit to which people could make donations for the care of people seeking psilocybin. Bendable Therapy will provide facilitators for psilocybin sessions and refer clients to service centers like Drop Thesis.
“Our goal is to make this affordable for everyone,” Gow said on the call.
Chapman says the Healing Advocacy Fund is exploring different ways to cut the cost of psilocybin sessions, including the use of insurance and employer reimbursement. Psilocybin use is valuable to insurers and companies because university research indicates that it is a powerful treatment for stubborn depression, alcoholism, post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder, sometimes with just one or two sessions.
Oregon ranks No. 1 in the U.S. for the percentage of people suffering from illicit drug use disorder and No. 5 in alcohol use disorder, Chapman says. Oregon spends $4 billion a year on alcohol treatment. Given its success in treating substance abuse, widespread psilocybin use could save the state real money.
“We can show the state that there can be big savings over time,” Chapman said.