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Editorial: Don’t disregard voters on mushroom therapy

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border patrol psilocybin mushrooms .jpg (stock)

Psilocybin mushrooms in raw form discovered at the Port of Champlain, N.Y. in June 2022. 

Mid-Willamette Valley voters elect local politicians who will try to represent their best interests, and most of the time, things work out pretty swell. City councilors and county commissioners take their positions seriously and generally try to listen to residents when making big decisions.

And once in a while, these officials completely disregard the will of the people.

That’s happening in at least one jurisdiction on the topic of psilocybin mushrooms for therapeutic purposes.

Oregonians have already made their voices heard, and they did so in the November 2020 General Election. We don’t think voters were particularly naïve or ill-informed on this topic when they cast their ballots and passed Measure 109 with 56% approval.

That result may feel shocking to some, but it fits neatly into a pattern of maverick milestones for Oregon. Think of the bottle bill, euthanasia and other landmarks. The Beaver State hasn’t been afraid to zig where others zag, or to decriminalize that which fills the Zig-Zags, which it did way back in 1973. This is simply another bit of trailblazing.

Oregon became the first state in our nation to greenlight the manufacture, sale and administration of psilocybin, which can be used to treat the effects of anxiety, depression and trauma — and this includes helping veterans suffering from mental health problems.

“Magic mushrooms” aren’t some sort of magic bullet, but studies have shown that they are beneficial for some people. Oregonians understood this and hoped that psilocybin could provide better treatment in some circumstances than mainstream pharmaceuticals.

Under the measure, Oregon counties and municipalities can opt out of permitting psilocybin facilities if voters approve a local moratorium or ban. The deadline to put such a matter on the November 2022 ballot is Aug. 19.

There’s a bit of confusion and misinformation regarding magic mushrooms, and we don’t agree with some of the slippery slope arguments being used against psilocybin therapy. Trained practitioners will administer the substance at licensed facilities, so if you’re looking for a drug scourge to combat, might we suggest fentanyl, prescription opioids or heroin?

Nevertheless, we have no complaints with stays or outright prohibition in jurisdictions where Measure 109 failed.

In Lebanon, for example, about 53% of voters were against psilocybin therapy in November 2020. So it seems fair that the Lebanon City Council has put a two-year moratorium before voters.

Similarly in Linn County, roughly 55% voted “no” on Measure 109, and on the November 2022 General Election ballot, commissioners are putting an outright ban on psilocybin therapy for consideration.

On the flip side of this equation, there’s the Philomath City Council, which is putting forth a two-year moratorium on psilocybin therapy, despite the town approving Measure 109 with a whopping 60% of the vote.

A proposed moratorium in Corvallis barely failed during a City Council vote, despite overwhelming support at the ballot box in 2020.

Other communities have yet to make a decision on the matter.

Benton County commissioners are mulling the merit of magic mushrooms, though 63% of voters there approved the treatment.

In Albany, 52% of voters passed Measure 109, and the council hasn’t determined a course of action yet.

Again, we don’t think voters were misled or foolhardy regarding Measure 109, and those who passed it seem highly unlikely to change their minds. If anything, we expect support of psilocybin therapy to gradually increase over time in more conservative-leaning areas.

So it makes absolutely no sense for officials in Philomath to try and overturn the decision of the electorate.

Putting the matter before voters once again seems like a waste of time in this instance. The people’s voice was loud and clear the first time around.

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