Oregon licensed the first “psilocybin service center” on May 5, making it possible as soon as this summer to take psychedelic mushrooms in a supervised setting that complies with state laws created by Measure 109 passed in 2020.
EPIC Healing Eugene will open before June 1 and will serve up to 30 people per month. Owner Cathy Jonas plowed through four months of paperwork and expense, chronicling her Kafkaesque quest on YouTube, where she described installing an elaborate security system, with multiple cameras, and buying a 375-pound safe to store mushrooms, as required by Oregon law.
Oregon’s psilocybin program—the first in the nation—makes detailed demands on service center operators, mostly because they will handle a drug that is still illegal under federal law. Jonas estimates she will spend $60,000 to get her center up and running. That figure includes the $10,000 annual fee she must pay to the Oregon Health Authority to operate.
Service centers have been the bottleneck in Oregon’s legal shroom regime. More than a dozen training programs are graduating facilitators—the people who lead clients on psychedelic journeys. But, until today, those facilitators had nowhere to practice their craft, at least legally. Instead, many have forgone licensing and have set up shop at home or in Airbnbs.
“Today is a watershed moment and marks the beginning of people in Oregon having access to a much-needed tool to address depression, anxiety and addiction,” says Sam Chapman, executive director of the Healing Advocacy Fund, a psilocybin advocacy organization. “By the end of 2023, we anticipate at least a dozen service centers will be operating in Oregon, and that number will only grow over time.”
Oregon requires licenses for psilocybin producers, testing labs, service centers, facilitators and even workers in the industry. So far, three manufactures, one testing lab, five facilitators, and 84 workers have been licensed, according to OHA. All of the licenses come with fees to pay for the program.
Jonas says she has 70 people on her waiting list for psilocybin trips, including several new ones today.
“It’s like getting a little slice of humanity’s pain,” Jonas said in an email. “I am humbled, yet eager, to start engaging in this deeper work with people. It’s a new era of healing.”
On the road to approval, Jonas hit several unforeseen road blocks. A licensed clinical social worker, she treats people under 21 in her practice. Now that her office is a psilocybin service center, she won’t be allowed to counsel minors there, curtailing her primary therapy business.
Jonas, 57, says she became interested in psychedelics eight years ago when she went to Peru with a friend and took ayahuasca, hoping that the psychedelic brew would help reveal her life’s purpose. The trip confirmed she was a healer and that she should expand her practice to include plant medicines.
One of the biggest criticisms of Oregon’s psilocybin program is that guided therapy sessions will be unaffordable for most people because of the costs involved. Jonas’ experience confirms that.
She charges $3,500 for a high-dose, six-hour trip, an amount she needs to break even. She charges less for shorter experiences with less psilocybin. For those, there is a group rate, too.
“It’s great the program is on track, in the sense that OHA is doing its part, although these services simply won’t be accessible to many Oregonians,” says Vince Sliwoski, a lawyer at Harris Bricken Sliwoski LLP, who specializes in cannabis and now psilocybin. “Some of them will be left out due to cost and access issues. Others will participate in the nonregulated space.”