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Phoenix will vote on possible psilocybin ban

Magic mushrooms are weighed and packaged at the Procare farm in the Netherlands. Phoenix City Council voted Aug. 1 to ask city voters to ban the therapeutic use of psilocybin in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)

Phoenix voters can decide Nov. 8 whether to ban psilocybin facilities in their community. City Council unanimously voted Aug. 1 for the measure to go on the ballot.

No speakers showed up for the public hearing on the measure, in contrast to other jurisdictions that have debated the issue and reviewed input from numerous citizens.

Phoenix voters in 2020 approved a state measure 60% to 40% authorizing facilities that could offer treatment using psilocybin and also to manufacture and test the substance, often called “magic mushrooms.”

“It’s wise to leave it to a decision of the voters,” said Mayor Terry Baker, after the council passed the ordinance 6-0.

In November 2020, voters passed state Measure 109, which allowed psilocybin facilities beginning in 2023. But the measure also allows counties and cities to refer the issue to their voters to prohibit use within their jurisdictions.

Councilors had debated the issue during a first reading of the ordinance July 18, where they decided to hold the public hearing and a second reading. At the session, councilors chose not to pursue a moratorium, which would have postponed a decision to a later date, they said.

Discussion by councilors this week was brief, with clarification about wording of the measure raised by Councilor Ketzal McCready. City Attorney Doug McGeary advised the council it could adopt the measure with the suggested change in wording.

Rules and regulations to govern how the facilities would operate are under development by the state. Some draft rules have been prepared by the Oregon Health Authority, but much of the rule-making has yet to be finished. It may be ready in September.

City officials would need to enact their own rules governing hours of operation and zones where the activities would be allowed if voters don’t decide to ban the operations. A “yes” vote on the measure would result in the ban. Under state law, the act becomes effective Jan. 1.

In Ashland, the council voted not to put a measure establishing a moratorium on the ballot after receiving testimony from speakers who talked about psilocybin’s beneficial therapeutic uses during a July 20 public hearing. Eighty percent of Ashland votes in 2020 favored Measure 109, the highest support in the state.

Medford City Council also declined to ask its residents to ban psilocybin, voting unanimously Thursday to let the Measure 109 proceed in the city.

Jackson County Board of Commissioners held a two-hour public hearing July 27 and heard from two dozen people before they put the measure on the ballot, said Commissioner Dave Dotterrer, who spoke during the Phoenix meeting. Only two people supported placing the measure before voters, while the others opposed seeking a ban.

Central Point City Council voted July 14 to place a ban before its voters in November.

In other meeting news, veteran Phoenix government official Al Muelhoefer announced his resignation from the council effective Aug. 16. He is council president.

Muehoefer was appointed to the council in 2020 and was elected to a four-year position in November of that year. While on the council, Muelhoefer was named chair of the Phoenix Urban Renewal Agency board of directors, which is composed of City Council members. During this year, Muelhoefer has been credited with a major role in securing sale of two urban renewal agency properties for development.

Muelhoefer served as chair of the PHURA board of directors from 2014 to 2018 at a time when it was composed of citizens appointed by the council. During that time, the Phoenix Civic Center was completed by the agency.

He is a retired U.S. Air Force colonel who flew F-4 fighter jets and was executive director of the Mainstreet program in Troy, Ohio, that worked on downtown revitalization.

Muelhoefer said he is approaching 80 and plans to spend cooler months with his wife, Annie Drager, in Mexico. Drager has been active with Phoenix Bee City USA and the community garden in Blue Heron Park.

“We have been talking about it for a very long time. We are ready to go for a new chapter in our lives,” said Muelhofer. “I will miss everyone here. I will be using the next two weeks to talk to staff and people all over Phoenix about what we should do.”

“You exemplify the apex, the ultimate picture of public service. You volunteer to the highest extent; you are honest to a fault. (There is) affection and respect for you,” said Baker. “It’s an honor to sit here and work with you.”

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.