No on Measure 109, yes on 110

There are two different ballot measures this fall that would change state law (and only state law) regarding the possession and use of psilocin — the active ingredient in “magic” psilocybin mushrooms. Ballot Measure 109 would potentially legalize its use only for a small number of medical patients under the supervision of the Oregon Health Authority. Measure 110 would greatly decriminalize possession of small amounts of psilocin (and other drugs) for everyone.

The proponents of Measure 109 are focused on setting up specialty facilities and services for the relatively few patients who might someday be able to access such. Measure 110 proponents are focused on helping a far greater number of persons and improving existing taxpayer-funded systems.

Given the current state of medical research into the therapeutic effects of psilocin (when tested under very complex and controlled circumstances), it is likely that psilocin will soon qualify for rescheduling under federal law, and that pharmaceutical-grade psilocin will become available for medical use by prescription. A similar situation is evolving for MDMA (“Ecstasy”). I am familiar with the current FDA and DEA approved research protocols (I have a certificate in psychedelic therapies and research from the California Institute of Integral Studies). I am very supportive of this line of research, and, frankly, in favor of pharmaceutical psilocin and MDMA becoming legally available to adults. However, I cannot support Measure 109 for the following reasons.

First, it would require that taxpayers fund a very expensive cart (the “Oregon Psilocybin Services Program”) to be put before an wholly unknown horse (yet-to-be-defined “Oregon Psilocybin Services”) and for a comparatively small number of possible patients. Measure 109 essentially forces the state to jump start the permitting process for private investors hoping to set up “tripping clinics.” In my opinion, as a taxpayer and a rural health care provider, the state has profoundly more important funding priorities (such as BM 110). Second, BM 109 imposes a huge and unnecessary burden on an already-overwhelmed OHA. If the FDA and DEA approve psilocin for medical purposes, and if the drug is moved out of schedule I, federal guidelines will be issued. As with any other new drug or treatment, the medical insurers (Medicare, Medicaid, the VA and all the commercial companies), and the medical practice liability companies, will issue eligibility rules and provider guidelines. Existing state medical boards already provide credentialing and oversight for scope of practice. Third, BM 109 would strictly limit who may use the drug (presuming it is legalized and FDA-approved) and where, by limiting the use to OHA-approved premises and staff. This may end up being a much tighter restriction than otherwise necessary (especially if BM 110 passes).

As a mental health worker, I am well aware of the challenges and heartbreak associated with the unsafe use of legal or illegal substances. But I also acknowledge that humans have been ingesting plants and fungi safely for thousands of years, often for spiritual exploration and growth. In 2007, the U.S. Annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reported that an annual average of 943,000 persons age 12 and over used hallucinogens for the first time in the preceding 12 months, with 52.3 percent of recent hallucinogen initiates using psilocybin mushrooms. According to the 2008 NSDUH survey, approximately 37 million Americans age 12 years or older reported having tried hallucinogens at least once, and approximately 3.7 million reporting usage in the previous year. No OHA-approved facility was involved. Comparatively speaking, BM 110 benefits substantially more Oregonians and is a much better use of our tax dollars.

Rose Jade is resident of Newport.