Union County voters to have a chance to opt out of Measure 109

·3 min read

Aug. 4—LA GRANDE — The Union County Board of Commissioners voted 3-0 on Wednesday, Aug. 3, in favor of an ordinance that would prohibit the sale and manufacturing of psilocybin products in unincorporated portions of the county. The proposed psilocybin ordinance will be referred to voters in the Nov. 8 election.

The sale and manufacturing of psilocybin in Oregon will be legal starting Jan. 2, 2023, under Measure 109, which voters approved in 2020. Measure 109 will go into effect at that time in unincorporated portions of Union County if the proposed ordinance is defeated by voters.

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

The measure 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, which many veterans suffer from.

Cheryl Campbell, of Imbler, an intensive care unit nurse for 30 years in Union County, spoke in support of psilocybin at the board of commissioners meeting. Campbell said many studies over the past 10 years have shown that patients who receive psilocybin therapy for depression, PTSD and addictions receive major reductions in their symptoms or experience complete remission. She said studies repeatedly show patients treated with psilocybin experience few side effects or adverse reactions.

"Many mental health scholars see psychedelic-type therapies, including psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy, as the future of psychiatric treatment," she said.

Dr. Joel Rice, of La Grande, a psychiatrist, said that psilocybin is the first drug that has provided a real advancement in the treatment of PTSD in many years. Rice said that banning psilocybin would not be fair to military veterans.

"It would be a huge disservice to people who have put their lives on the line for us," he said.

A concern addressed at the meeting is that the state has not yet developed detailed rules for regulating Measure 109. Rice said he is confident the state will do a good job of developing these rules.

Union County Sheriff Cody Bowen said he does not have confidence in how the state will develop rules for regulating Measure 109.

"I don't have a lot of faith in the state of Oregon," he said.

The sheriff also said he fears that legalizing psilocybin will increase the crime rate in Union County.

Oregon is one of the first states, and possibly the only one, to have legalized psilocybin. This concerns Union County Commissioner Matt Scarfo.

"I don't want to be a test case for the country in this," he said.

Scarfo also said the lack of rules for regulating psilocybin bothers him.

"There are so many unknowns," he said.

Commissioner Paul Anderes is opposed to Measure 109 in part because it does not require the drug to be dispensed by licensed health care providers and it is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Anderes said if the FDA decides to allow pysilocybin to be prescribed by licensed health care professionals, he would be all for it.

"I would be 100% behind that," he said.

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