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Ashland welcomes psilocybin

City Council votes unanimously not to oppose therapeutic use of magic mushrooms in Ashland
Magic mushrooms are weighed and packaged at the Procare farm in the Netherlands. Ashland City Council voted Tuesday to not stand in the way of the legal therapeutic use of psilocybin in Ashland. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)

News that Ashland City Council was considering a moratorium on the therapeutic use of psilocybin mushrooms prompted enough Ashlanders to speak in defense of the fungi during Tuesday’s City Council meeting that the council backed away from a proposed pause.

After several passionate testimonies delivered by members of the Ashland community in person and over Zoom, the council voted unanimously against referring any measures aimed at banning or pausing the therapeutic use of magic mushrooms in Ashland.

“I’ve been at a loss over the years with traditional medications to treat deep-seated trauma,” said Ashland therapist Esther Goldberg, when she came before council.

Goldberg stated psilocybin is a safer and more effective treatment for trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder than traditional medications, with a low rate of addiction.

She mentioned a fact that was repeated by nearly every other speaker Tuesday — that 80% of Ashland voters cast a ballot in favor of Measure 109 in 2020, a higher rate of support than anywhere else in the state.

Will Lucas, referencing his recently earned degree in chemistry and biology, said he studied the therapeutic effects of psilocybin for years and could see nothing but benefit from the treatment.

“It is a recorded fact that no one has ever died from this treatment, despite widespread unsupervised use,” Lucas said.

Like many others speaking at the meeting, he hoped to participate in a planned psilocybin treatment center. Mirroring other speakers, Lucas asked the city to work with citizens to develop regulations.

Ashland resident and hopeful psilocybin administrator Michael Novak said the mushrooms helped him overcome 20 years of alcoholism.

“I would much rather work with our community and our constituents to see how we can work together,” said Councilor Gina DuQuenne. “Eighty percent. I didn’t know we were the highest in Oregon, but go Ashland.

“Addiction is at an all-time high, no pun intended, and we have a solution,” she continued.

Councilor Tonya Graham said the vote on Measure 109 was an example of Ashland as a place of innovation and healing. Graham volunteered that she personally voted in favor of the measure.

“This item really should have been posted more as seeking council direction,” said City Manager Joe Lessard, who had proposed a pause on the use of psilocybin in Ashland.

Several other governments in the Rogue Valley, including Medford, Phoenix and Jackson County are looking at whether to ask their voters to ban psilocybin businesses in their areas.

Central Point City Council voted July 14 to refer a ban on mushroom growing and dispensing to the November ballot.

Growing and using psilocybin mushrooms will become legal in January 2023. The mushrooms must be consumed under the supervision of a licensed provider.

The suggested ballot language was proposed because of a coming deadline, the city manager said. If council wanted to put a moratorium on the November ballot like other cities in Jackson County, it would have to do it now.

Councilor Paula Hyatt stated regulations already on the books would be ready and applied to psilocybin, including no use or manufacture in residential areas or near school zones.

Mayor Julie Akins described Measure 109 as a “win win win” in its ability to bring new economic opportunities to the city and provide therapy. She said she hoped Jackson County officials were watching and would not pass a ban.

The county commissioners have scheduled a public hearing about a proposed ban on growing and administering psychedelic mushrooms in unincorporated parts of the county for 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, July 27, in the Jackson County Courthouse Auditorium, 10 S. Oakdale Ave., Medford.

“Hopefully, Jackson County doesn’t vote that in, but if they do, Ashland will be here, holding it down,” Akins said.

When the council voted unanimously against the proposed moratorium, the audience in City Hall broke into applause.

“You’re not really supposed to do that — but OK,” Akins said.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Morgan Rothborne at mrothborne@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4487. Follow her on Twitter @MRothborne.