Measure 109 not ‘just another drug ballot measure’

Skyler Bascom

In the November 2020 election, Oregonians voted in favor of passing Ballot Measure 109.

This permits the Oregon Health Authority to establish a framework for psilocybin-assisted therapy to begin as early as 2023. Personally, I couldn’t be more excited for my fellow Oregonians.

Measure 109 will open career fields for mental health professionals, financial investors, and farmers who grow psilocybin mushrooms, commonly known as “magic mushrooms” or “shrooms,” which have psychedelic qualities.

More importantly, Measure 109 gives Oregonians suffering from symptoms associated with addiction, PTSD, anxiety, and depression access to psilocybin-assisted therapy which has the potential to be low-cost and administered in a single-dose session.

Therefore, it came as a shocking surprise when colleagues, friends, and family members told me they voted against the ballot measure, writing it off as “just another drug measure.” Because of the state’s history of legalizing marajuana for recreational use in 2014 and passing of Measure 110 which decriminalizes classic “hard drugs,” I am concerned that Measure 109 has been lumped together as “just another drug measure” by others who share the sentiment of my colleagues, friends, and family members.

By brushing it off as “just another drug measure,” mental health providers, farmers, and investors will miss the opportunity to enter new career fields. More importantly, I am concerned that thousands of Oregonians suffering from addiction, PTSD, anxiety, and depression will go untreated if Measure 109 is dismissed too readily as, “just another drug measure.”

The first reason why Measure 109 is not “just another drug measure” is because the framework is centered around professional licensing for therapists, clinical centers, psilocybin growers, and psilocybin testers, according to the OHA.

This measure does not make provisions for recreational use of psilocybin. In 2023 Oregonians will not see “mushroom shops” popping up, advertised with little brown crosses alongside our recreational “pot shops” with their little green crosses. Oregonians will not see billboards advertising “shroom map apps” like we do “weed map apps” along the I-5 corridor.

The psychedelic research at John Hopkins University, which serves as the scientific backbone of the ballot measure, was conducted in clinical settings, according to best-selling food science writer Michael Pollan. It is a far leap to assume that Oregon will stray from this clinical model in 2023.

Although there is a growing demand for retreat-type clinics for “healthy normals,” we can predict that the initial psilocybin-assisted therapy model will closely resemble the clinical models of John Hopkins with an emphasis on palliative care and the alleviation of depression, anxiety, and PTSD symptoms.

In 2023 we can expect licensed professionals to deploy clinical skills as they distribute synthesized psilocybin capsules. Think more along the lines of Sigmund Freud’s couch and less along the lines of Black Rock Desert’s Burning Man.

The second reason why I do not see Measure 109 as “just another drug measure” is because of its economic potential for rural Oregonians. As mentioned above, the OHA is working on four separate licenses (therapist, center operator, grower, tester). In 2023 farmers and gifted green-thumbed individuals can apply to the OHA for a growers license.

Since psilocybin mushrooms naturally grow in Oregon without the aid of humans, this might prove to be a low-cost avenue for farmers looking to supplement their income.

Measure 109 will also provide a new career field for mental health therapists, counselors and chaplains. This is good news since Oregon is consistently ranked last out of all 50 states by the National Alliance on Mental Illness for the amount of people suffering with mental illness compared to the number of licensed mental health providers.

Measure 109 has the potential to attract out-of-state therapists to consider moving their practice to Oregon as well as encourage young adults to consider the field of psilocybin assisted-therapy. Counselors, therapists and ordained chaplains can apply for a psilocybin-assisted therapy licenses after completing some additional coursework from psychedelic training programs such as MAPS, CIIS, and PRATI.

Lastly, Measure 109 provides an ample opportunity for investors to apply for a center operation license. Because of Oregon’s beautiful mountains, beaches, and lush Douglas fir forests, these centers can be located in a natural setting that will facilitate the therapeutic process.

Oregon psilocybin centers have the potential to be advertised nationally as the leader in PTSD, addiction, depression, and anxiety therapy, seated in the beautiful Northwest.

The third reason why Measure 109 should not be discredited as a “drug measure” is because of its unique relationship to Measure 110, which by all means is a “drug measure.”

Oregon voters also passed Measure 110 in the November election, which will require addiction treatment for individuals found in the possession of a controlled substance.

Due to the fact that psilocybin-assisted therapy has shown effectiveness in the treatment of tobacco, there is a hopeful optimism that it can be applied also for the treatment of other addictions, as demonstrated by a study reported in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in 2014.

Other research has demonstrated that psilocybin has no addictive properties. Repeated “abuse” of psilocybin will reduce its effects, thus essentially leaving the abuser unsatisfied, according to Ralph Metzner, who wrote in 2015 on the subject of safely using the substance in 2014.

Since the framework suggests that average treatment will be a one-time single dose, there is no reason to believe that clients will get addicted to the treatment itself. This is unlike the methadone clinic model adopted here in Oregon, which has the potential for clients to get addicted to the treatment itself.

Therefore, Oregonians may see psilocybin-assisted therapy as the most readily available and affordable treatment for individuals found in the possession of a controlled substance.

The relationship between Measure 109 and Measure 110 can be summarized by saying Measure 109 (psilocybin-assisted therapy) has the potential to be the preferred treatment for those found in the possession of controlled substances (Measure 110).

The relationship between Measure 109 and Measure 110 clearly suggests that psilocybin-assisted therapy is an ally, not an enemy, to those fighting drug abuse in Oregon.

As our nation begins to heal from the traumatic events of 2020, Oregon can rise to the occasion by providing high-quality, low-cost therapy in a single-dose session for those suffering from symptoms associated with addiction, PTSD, anxiety, and depression.

Also, as our nation begins to regain economic stability, Measure 109 provides an opportunity for rural communities to become industry leaders in growing, manufacturing, and facilitating psilocybin-assisted therapy.

In order to actualize the full potential and benefit of Measure 109 the first step is to view it as “not just another drug measure.”

After this first step, further discussions, research, and conversations need to continue as to how we can safely, effectively, and meaningfully open up psilocybin-assisted centers here in Oregon. If done well, Oregon can become a model for other states to follow as our nation casts its eyes beyond 2020.

– Skyler Bascom is a local school counselor. He can be reached at (541) 405-1511 or by email at [email protected].

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