The governor of Oregon on Tuesday announced the appointment of 17 members of a first-of-its-kind advisory board that will help facilitate the implementation of a historic initiative to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for therapeutic purposes.
The board of experts consists of physicians, psychologists, public health experts, researchers, a harm reduction specialist, representatives of state agencies like the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and Justice Department and more.
“Like many, I was initially skeptical when I first heard of Measure 109,” Brown said in a press release. “But if we can help people suffering from PTSD, depression, trauma and addiction—including veterans, cancer patients, and others—supervised psilocybin therapy is a treatment worthy of further consideration.”
Tom Eckert, chief petitioner for Measure 109 and member of the advisory board, said the development “represents a crucial first step toward implementing the nation’s first statewide psilocybin services program.”
“This is an impressive Board poised to do groundbreaking work. My late wife Sheri and I had always envisioned this—an empowered Board of leading experts, representing a variety of relevant disciplines, advising the Oregon Health Authority on psilocybin safety, practice, training, and access standards,” he said. “I am filled with pride and appreciation for all the Oregon voters out there who made this a reality.”
Advisory board members will work with OHA and stakeholders to inform regulations for the psilocybin program, which will be the first of its kind in the U.S., and also analyze “available scientific studies and research on the safety and efficacy of psilocybin in treating mental health conditions.”
OHA has two years to create the rules for the program. It will also “examine, publish, and distribute publicly” findings from the board.
The advisory board will have until June 30 to submit those findings and recommendations. OHA will then have until July 31 to begin publishing and distributing that information.
The board is also responsible for developing “a long-term strategic plan for ensuring that psilocybin services will become and remain a safe, accessible and affordable therapeutic option for all persons 21 years of age and older in this state for whom psilocybin may be appropriate.”
That includes attempting to coordinate with the state attorney general’s office to discuss the measure, as well as “potential federal enforcement policies regarding psilocybin in Oregon after the expiration of the two-year program development period,” according to an explanatory statement for the initiative.
“This new Psilocybin Advisory Board is an exceptional group of experts and advocates that gives Oregon the know how and understanding we need to promote healing, safety, equity and access through psilocybin therapy,” Sam Chapman, executive director of the Healing Advocacy Fund and the former campaign manager of the successful ballot effort, said. “This is a historic first step in establishing a program that will help tens of thousands and we’re encouraged by Governor Brown’s leadership in assembling this board.”
— Healing Advocacy Fund (@voteyeson109) March 16, 2021
Rachel Knox, who will serve as the state panel’s harm reduction specialist, said “Black, Indigenous, and Latinx people in Oregon and the United States have suffered disproportionate psychological trauma as a result of the ‘War on Drugs,’ a systemic phenomenon that continues to directly and negatively impact all determinants of health in these communities.”
“Ironically, this criminalized the use of plant substances with notable industrial, medical, and spiritual utility,” Knox, who is also a board member of the Minority Cannabis Business Association, said. “Psilocybin has been used in the healing and spiritual practices of Indigenous communities for a long time. Much of what we know about psilocybin comes from Indigenous knowledge, a fact that is too often overlooked.”
Meanwhile, OHA is currently accepting applications for three staff positions related to the psilocybin program.
It’s looking for an operations analyst to “provide policy, legislative, and operational assistance to the Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board as well as support the Psilocybin program.”
The agency also needs a research analyst “to develop and manage research and evaluation projects related to the Oregon Psilocybin Services Program.”
Finally, there’s an opening for an Oregon Psilocybin Services section manager whose role would be to “manage and oversee the Oregon Psilocybin Services Section and ensure operations are in compliance with pertinent and relevant statutes and regulations.”
While Oregon’s therapeutic psilocybin model is novel, it’s one part of a burgeoning movement throughout the U.S. to reform laws governing psychedelics that started after Denver became the first city in the U.S. to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms in 2019 via a citizen initiative.
On Monday, for example, a wide range of psychedelics such as psilocybin and ayahuasca officially became the lowest local law enforcement priorities in the nation’s capital following voter approval of a decriminalization initiative in Washington, D.C. last year.
A New York lawmaker is introduced legislation last week that would decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms in the state.
Six cities—Oakland, Santa Cruz, Ann Arbor, Washington, D.C., Somerville and Cambridge—have decriminalized possession of a broader collection plant-and fungi-based psychedelics since Denver’s move. Activists in Spokane, Washington have also recently submitted a similar reform proposal to local lawmakers.
A Republican lawmaker in Iowa introduced a bill to remove psilocybin from the list of controlled substances, which received a subcommittee hearing earlier this month but did not advance. He also filed another piece of legislation to let seriously ill patients use psychedelic mushrooms, LSD, DMT and other drugs.
Here’s the full list of appointed members of the Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board:
Public Health Director Designee: Andre Ourso, OHA
State Health Officer Designee: Dr. Tom Jeanne, OHA
Oregon Health Policy Board Designee: Barb Hansen
State Employee w/ Public Health Expertise: Ali Hamade, OHA
Local Health Officer: Dr. Sarah Present, Clackamas City
Addictions Medicine Specialist: Kevin Fitts, Portland
Licensed Psychologist: Dr. Kimberley Golletz, Corvallis
Licensed Physician: Dr. Todd Korthius, OHSU
Academic Researcher: Mason Marks, Portland
Mycologist: Dr. Jessie Uehling, Oregon State University
Harm Reduction Specialist: Angela Carter, Portland
Psychopharmacologic Specialist: Dr. Atheir Abbas, OHSU
OLCC: Nathan Rix
Oregon DOJ: David Hart
Chief Petitioner Designee: Tom Eckert
Public: Stephanie Barrs, Bend
Public: Dr. Rachel Knox, Portland
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/Mushroom Observer.