Union County Board of Commissioners may ask voters to approve psilocybin opt out ordinance

·2 min read

Aug. 1—LA GRANDE — Union County voters in November may be given the chance to virtually ban psilocybin products in much of the county.

The Union County Board of Commissioners is set to vote on an ordinance that would prohibit the sale and manufacturing of psilocybin products in unincorporated portions of the county when it meets at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 3, in the Joseph Building's east meeting room. The proposed psilocybin ordinance, if passed by the board, would be referred to voters in the Tuesday, Nov. 8, election.

The sale and manufacturing of psilocybin in Oregon is now legal after voters approved Measure 109 in 2020. If the board of commissioners does not refer the proposed ordinance to voters, Measure 109 will go into effect in unincorporated portions of Union County. It would also go into effect if the proposed ordinance were rejected by voters.

Measure 109 passed with a 56% majority in Oregon in 2020 but voters in Union County rejected it.

"This would give voters a chance to reject the measure a second time and opt out," said Union County Commissioner Donna Beverage.

The commissioner views Measure 109, also known as the Oregon Psilocybin Services Act, as flawed.

"It is very vague — there are no guidelines or details," she said.

Measure 109 directs the Oregon Health Authority to license and regulate the manufacturing, transportation, delivery, sale and purchase of psilocybin products.

Psilocybin is the active ingredient in hallucinogenic mushrooms, and research has indicated it may be a useful drug in treating a variety of conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder. Beverage noted that even though psilocybin may be used for medical purposes, it can be distributed under Measure 109 by people who are not health professionals, something that concerns her.

Beverage is also worried about what could happen if the proposed opt out ordinance is rejected by voters.

"If voters chose not to opt out it could change the culture of our county," she said.

Also at the Aug. 3 meeting the board of commissioners will make appointments to the Special Transportation Fund Advisory Committee, the Statewide Transportation Improvement Fund Advisory Committee, the Union County Tourism Promotion Advisory Committee and the Wallowa Union Railroad Authority committee.

The board will also vote on whether to guarantee a $75,000 bridge loan for the Union County Fair Board. The loan would be used to pay Union County Fair participants for the sale of their livestock at the fair's 4-H and FFA livestock sale in the interim before sale proceeds are fully collected.

The loan would make it possible for young people whose livestock was sold to be paid promptly rather than having to wait months while the fair board is getting payments from buyers, Beverage said.

Dick Mason is a reporter with The Observer. Contact him at 541-624-6016 or dmason@lagrandeobserver.com.