La Grande City Council passes ordinance banning psilocybin, will go to voters in November

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Aug. 4—LA GRANDE — The La Grande City Council voted to declare an emergency in order to pass an ordinance banning psilocybin service centers within city limits during its regular meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 3, but voters will get the final say when the proposal appears on the November ballot.

"This is a topic that came to be in the 2020 November election with the voter approval of Ballot Measure 109 and that is the legalization of psychedelic mushrooms," said Michael Boquist, community development director for the city of La Grande.

Four options were presented to the city council during the meeting:

* Allowing Measure 109 to simply go into effect.

* Allowing it to go into effect with restrictions.

* Calling for a complete ban on psilocybin service centers.

* A two-year temporary ban.

The final two options would go to voters for approval.

The vote passed 3-2 with John Bozarth, Gary Lillard and Mary Ann Miesner voting in favor of the full ban and Nicole Howard and Mayor Steve Clements voting against. Two members of the council were absent and did not vote.

Boquist believed the full-ban option allows the council the most control over the future of psilocybin in La Grande, while ensuring voters were included in the process. If the ban is approved by voters, it would take another vote of the people to lift it. This could be initiated by voters or the city council.

"Option three is that it runs continually and we're in the driver's seat and we decide when we want to lift that," Boquist said.

In contrast, if the council moved forward with a temporary ban, it would need to be revisited every two years and could not be converted into a complete ban.

Councilor John Bozarth requested La Grande Police Chief Gary Bell's opinion on the matter. Bell was in favor of the full ban.

"I'm not impressed, I'm not excited about it. We have some recent history where the state of Oregon has got the cart before the horse, in my opinion. I don't know what the outcome is and that really concerns me," the police chief said. "And we have our hands full right now with drug abuse in our community. And I'm not suggesting that as presented this is abuse, but I'm very concerned any time we loosen the regulation on these things."

Lillard and Clements both spoke about the medical use of psilocybin, but the general consensus from the city council is that there is still too much unknown about psilocybin and the process. One of the primary concerns raised in favor of the ban by Clements and Boquist is that the Oregon Health Authority has not finalized how the program will be run and what regulations will be in place.

Isabella Crowley is a reporter for The Observer. Contact her at 541-624-6014 or icrowley@lagrandeobserver.com.