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Jackson County could block psychedelic mushroom nature retreats

Jackson County is considering regulations on psychedelic mushroom businesses if county voters don’t ban the businesses. [123rf.com photo]

Jackson County is proposing regulations that would block psychedelic mushroom retreat centers in natural, rural areas of the county.

If adopted, the regulations would block plans for retreats at places like Buckhorn Springs Retreat Center east of Ashland and the New Frontier Ranch along Highway 66 in the Greensprings.

The regulations will become moot if voters decide Tuesday to ban psychedelic mushroom businesses in unincorporated Jackson County.

But if voters decide to allow mushroom businesses in unincorporated parts of the county, the county government could restrict therapy centers that administer the mushrooms to general commercial zones.

Most general commercial zones are located in business corridors along Highway 99, Highway 62 or in city cores — not in the peaceful rural settings prized by those who want to launch retreat centers.

“Jackson County is effectively attempting to outlaw psychedelic nature retreats without a public vote,” said Mike Arnold, a Springfield lawyer and founder and chief executive officer of Silo Wellness.

His company wants to team with the 960-acre Frontier Ranch to allow for psychedelic mushroom nature tourism.

But many neighbors who feel burned by Oregon’s out-of-control marijuana industry, which includes legal businesses plus rampant illegal grows, say they don’t want psychedelic mushroom businesses adding to their problems.

Rural resident Amanda Hurley said her family used to be able to ride bikes and walk their dogs, but with people descending on Jackson County from all over the nation and world to grow illegal marijuana, they no longer feel safe doing so. Workers are also living in virtual slavery in shanties at the grows, she said.

“Putting a campground in rural Jackson County with all these people on psychedelic drugs, what will that do to our community?” Hurley said.

She said people could have a bad mental or physical reaction to the psychedelic mushrooms. Ambulance and law enforcement responses would take longer, she said, if first responders had to drive out to rural sites. That also would pull first responders away from other people facing medical emergencies for non-drug reasons, Hurley added.

The Jackson County Planning Commission held a public hearing Thursday to get input on the proposed regulations. Another public hearing will be held Thursday next week, after Tuesday’s election, if needed. The Planning Commission could develop recommendations on regulations, then forward those to the Jackson County Board of Commissioners for a final decision.

Oregon voters approved psychedelic mushrooms in a 2020 vote. Licensed facilitators will be allowed to administer the mushrooms beginning in January 2023, after Oregon Health Authority finalizes state regulations.

Counties and cities are allowed to adopt additional regulations to govern mushroom businesses, or their voters could decide to ban the businesses altogether.

Voters Tuesday will decide whether to ban the businesses in unincorporated Jackson County and the cities of Central Point, Phoenix, Eagle Point, Shady Cove, Jacksonville and Rogue River.

City Councils in Medford, Ashland and Talent decided not to refer bans to their voters, meaning psychedelic mushroom businesses can go forward in those cities in 2023.

Under Jackson County’s proposed regulations governing mushroom businesses, growing could occur in a wider variety of zones, including farm use and industrial zones, but not residential zones.

Mushroom proponents say one building the size of a house could produce all the mushrooms needed for therapeutic use in Jackson County.

Research is ongoing, but some studies show the psilocybin in psychedelic mushrooms can help with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and end-of-life distress.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.