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Medford won’t ban psilocybin

City Council voted unanimously Thursday to let Measure 109 proceed without asking city residents to vote on a ban
A vendor bags psilocybin mushrooms at a pop-up cannabis market in Los Angeles in 2019. Medford City Council decided Thursday not to seek a ban on the therapeutic use of the mushrooms. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

Medford will allow psilocybin treatment centers next year, the City Council decided unanimously Thursday night.

A proposed November ballot measure asking Medford voters to approve either a two-year ban or a permanent ban on psilocybin therapy was rejected.

Instead Medford staff will develop time, place and manner regulations for therapy locations and mushroom cultivation businesses.

“Let’s get started now, and not waste any more staff time sending this to voters,” said Councilor Clay Bearnson, who made the motion to not seek a ballot measure aimed at banning psilocybin in the city.

Medford now joins Ashland — which also voted against asking its voters to approve a ban — in allowing psilocybin facilities inside their respective cities.

Central Point, Phoenix and Jackson County have all decided to refer a ban to the November ballot.

In November 2020, Oregon voters approved Ballot Measure 109, the Oregon Psilocybin Service Act, which allows for manufacture, delivery and administration of psilocybin at licensed facilities. The state will begin processing licenses in January 2023.

Medford voters approved Measure 109 by 201 votes, according to Jackson County Clerk Chris Walker.

Earlier, a Medford official indicated the measure lost by 800 votes in the city, but Walker said that calculation included two rural precincts that aren’t in the city limits.

In July, Jackson County commissioners approved placing a measure on the Nov. 8 ballot asking voters to ban psilocybin mushrooms despite strong support for psilocybin therapy during a public hearing.

The county ordinance would not affect local cities from allowing psilocybin in their communities, but the measure, if approved, would prevent therapy centers in unincorporated areas of the county.

Last week, the Medford council held a study session that delved into the regulations surrounding licensing of locations for psilocybin, sometimes known as “magic mushrooms.”

Oregon Health Authority is still developing regulations about the licensing, which has caused concern from cities and counties who need to write their own rules concerning the times of operation, where they can be located and other rules around the manner of operations. The rules need to be written before the state starts processing licenses in January.

Supporters of psilocybin therapy say it has proven effective in treating post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction, mental illness and other problems.

Will Lucas, who helped campaign in support of Measure 109, told councilors that psilocybin therapy will be a regulated industry with licensing and insurance policies.

“You can just trust that the professional services will be done for the benefit of the client,” he said.

He said that if the council put the measure on the ballot in November, and it potentially failed, it would leave little time for the city to prepare for licensed facilities.

“You only have mid-November to January to put time, place and manner in place,” he said.

He said he would prefer the city prepare regulations for psilocybin rather than go through the effort of a ballot measure.

Lucas said he and others were prepared to campaign against a Medford measure.

In July, the council heard from many county residents about the importance of psilocybin therapy, including from veterans.

They also heard from supporters who said this limited use of psilocybin in a licensed treatment facility would not resemble the legalization of cannabis.

Growing mushrooms will be conducted in an indoor facility and shouldn’t have the odor associated with cannabis.

The psilocybin law will allow anyone age 21 or older to seek treatment from a licensed therapy center. Unlike cannabis, psilocybin cannot be used at home or recreationally.

Councilors decided the best use of city time was to devise regulations surrounding psilocybin treatment rather than pursue a ballot measure.

“Duplication of staff time is not an efficient way to run our city,” said Councilor Tim D’Alessandro.

Reach freelance writer Damian Mann at dmannnews@gmail.com.