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Talent council rejects psilocybin ban vote

Talent City Council voted not to pursue a ban on psilocybin through a ballot referral. [123rf.com]

Talent residents won’t be asked to vote on a two-year ban on psilocybin facilities after City Council last week took no action on a proposal.

In November 2020, 69.3% of Talent voters approved state Measure 109, which authorizes therapeutic use of the psychedelic mushrooms under the supervision of a mental health professional.

A vote on a temporary ban on psilocybin service centers and manufacturing had been recommended to the council by City Manager Jordan Rooklyn. After 20 minutes of questions and deliberation, no councilor offered a motion to enact the vote ordinance when Mayor Darby Ayers-Flood asked to proceed.

Oregon voters passed the measure authorizing use and manufacturing of psilocybin, also called magic mushrooms, in November 2020 with an effective date of Jan. 1, 2023. The measure allows jurisdictions to opt out if local voters approve.

Jurisdictions across Oregon and in Jackson County have considered measures for the ballot calling either for outright bans or for two-year moratoriums.

“I’m not in favor to putting this on the ballot,” said Councilor Eleanor Ponomareff. “Besides the fact that our community overwhelmingly supported the state measure, I think for the city to take a stand would be to essentially say we would like to withhold this potential lifesaving medical care from folks in the city.”

Businesses that wanted to pursue the legal use and manufacture of psilocybin would also be stifled for two years if the moratorium was approved, said Ponomareff.

“One of the struggles we are facing is that (Oregon Health Authority) has not completed their rule-making process, so we have not been able to review the rules … or determine how they are going to be implemented or roll out,” said Rooklyn. “What the ban does is give us two years. Are there land use regulations that Talent would like to have in place? The safe path is to wait two years and do an assessment as to how that rollout happened. At this point, we have nothing to go on.”

“I don’t support putting this on the ballot because the residents of Talent and the whole state of Oregon just voted for this, and in Talent quite significantly,” said Councilor Jason Clark. “I think it’s unfortunate to see the various jurisdictions across the state try to overturn what Oregon voters have approved.”

A long history of irrational fears around drugs has led to the destruction of many lives, said Clark. People are able to use the drug to overcome and work through difficult psychological challenges, including post-traumatic stress disorder, other types of trauma and long-standing addictions.

Recent research has shown promising results with use of psilocybin, said Clark and Councilor David Pastizzo. Pastizzo also looked at the consequences for the city if a measure wasn’t sent to voters.

“I guess we would have to decide what zones we would have it in. We could have that discussion,” said Pastizzo. “It seems to me like it wouldn’t take too much effort to figure that out.”

City councils in Ashland and Medford have declined to put measures on the ballot asking for either a ban or a moratorium, allowing Measure 109 to take effect Jan. 1.

The Jackson County Board of Commissioners voted to send a measure seeking a ban to voters in unincorporated areas of the county. City councils in Central Point and Phoenix also voted to put outright bans on the use and manufacturing of psilocybin on the November ballot.

Voters in Jackson County approved Measure 109 narrowly in November 2020. Statewide, nearly 56% of voters approved the measure. Oregon is the first state to legalize psilocybin for medical use.

About two-thirds of Oregon’s 36 counties are putting a ban or moratorium before voters.

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