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Vote no on Measure 109: psilocybin therapy

A few months ago, when a young woman with a clipboard asked me to sign a petition to put a measure on the November ballot legalizing the use of psilocybin, I flashed back 50 years.

A friend had given me about a half teaspoon of ground-up dried psilocybin mushroom. I brewed it into a tea and drank before retiring. I did not sleep but lay awake and hallucinated ghosts stepping out of the walls crossing the room bed and disappearing. By morning the hallucinations stopped. I was exhausted but determined to write down my experience. But when I tried to write I could only make a scratch mark on the paper. Brain and hand were disconnected. By noon I felt normal again and had forgotten about my desire to write about my experience.

“No way!” I told the young woman with the clipboard. Enough people signed the petition, however, so it appears on the 2020 Oregon General Election Ballot as Measure 109.

As person who has spent most of his adult life as a licensed mental health therapist, with an Ph.D. in psychology, and unlike a large majority of the people who are in favor of Measure 109, I have had my one self-administered experience with psilocybin. To be clear, I have no objection to psilocybin being used to treat various mental disorders, as long as the treatment is based on research published in peer-reviewed medical or scientific journals. So far, the FDA has approved the use of psilocybin for only one diagnosis, severe depression.

Looking at the Voters’ Pamphlet for the general election, 25 pages are devoted to the text of Measure 109 followed by arguments in favor and against. On those pages there are stipulations for applicants to become licensed as a facilitator (provider). They must have been a resident of Oregon for two years, be 21 years of age, and be a high school graduate. Section 30. Facilitator license; fees; rules. (3) states: “The authority may not require a psilocybin service facilitator to have a degree from a university, college, post-secondary institution, or other institution of higher education.” That person, after taking yet-to-be determined orientation course, once licensed, is permitted to open five locations within the state to sell and administer psilocybin on the premises.

Another provision, Section 8. General powers and duties; rules, (4), states: “The authority may not require a client to be diagnosed with or have any particular medical condition as a condition to being provided psilocybin services.” This means that anyone who wants to trip out on psilocybin, can walk in, pay an “affordable” fee, and be administered a powerful hallucinogen.

The one argument against Measure 109 is by the Oregon Psychiatric Physicians sums up why I ask Oregon voters to vote no in the general election:

“Psilocybin affects serotonin levels in the brain and induces hallucinations. It could interact adversely with prescribed medications, worsen a patient’s mental health condition, or encourage a person to stop their current treatment. It will allow prescribing of a controlled substance with effects on the body and the brain to a practitioner with no medical training.” (page 118)

Measure 109 — Vote no.

Bert A. Anderson, M.Div., Ph.D., lives in Ashland.

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