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Psychedelic therapy initiative makes it on November ballot

After a delay to count the final signatures, an initiative to legalize the therapeutic use of the psychedelic properties of “magic mushrooms” has qualified for Oregon’s November ballot.

“We did it!” announced the website of supporters of Initiative Petition 34, the Oregon Psilocybin Services Act.

Secretary of State Bev Clarno certified Wednesday that the backers of Initiative Petition 34 had submitted 132,465 valid signatures — a comfortable margin beyond the required 112,020 required to put the issue before voters.

The deadline for submitting signatures was July 2. At that time, the IP34 supporters were about 6,000 signatures short of the number needed to make the ballot. They submitted additional petitions before the deadline, but it took until Wednesday for the signatures to be validated.

The certification means four ballot measures will go before voters on Nov. 3. An initiative to decriminalize possession of small amounts of many drugs — including heroin and cocaine — qualified earlier. The Legislature submitted two referrals for voter consideration: A cigarette tax and a campaign finance reform measure.

If approved by voters, IP 34 would create a legal, licensed system of therapeutic centers where adult clients could undergo therapy involving the ingestion of psilocybin, the psychoactive substance extracted from some fungi. Supporters say psilocybin has been shown to aid in treatment of depression, anxiety and some other mental disorders.

The initiative would change Oregon state statutes to allow the manufacture, delivery, and administration of psilocybin at supervised, licensed facilities. Under current law, growing, manufacturing, delivering and possessing psilocybin is illegal under state and federal law. It is listed as a Schedule 1 drug by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency.

If approved, the initiative would require the Oregon Health Authority to create an “Oregon Psilocybin Services Program” to license and regulate each step of the process from cultivation to administration.

Adult clients would visit a clinic-like setting where a licensed “facilitator” would administer a regulated dose of psilocybin and monitor the client’s experience during and after it is ingested. The licensed facilitators would be exempt from criminal penalties that apply to unlicensed sale, possession and use.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult for traditional signature-gathering techniques.

The psilocybin and drug decriminalization initiatives were the only two of 72 ballot measure efforts that were at some point submitted for review to the Secretary of State for the 2020 election.

Ballot measures that would have dealt with sexual assault, guns, forests, water quality, air pollution, taxes, transportation, animal rights, and toll roads either stalled, were withdrawn or did not gather enough signatures to qualify.

A group attempting to create an independent panel for reapportionment of state and congressional districts next year has filed suit against the Secretary of State in federal court, arguing that the pandemic’s impact had made it impossible to gather the nearly 150,000 signatures needed for a constitutional amendment.

Whether voters eventually see four or five measures on the November ballot, it will be the lowest number since at least the beginning of this century.