Policy Reform

Open Letter: Help Legalize Psilocybin Services in Oregon

Oregon Shrooms

Word is getting out about the healing power of psilocybin, the psychedelic compound found in “magic” mushrooms. Here in Oregon, where psilocybin mushrooms colonize our coastal forests, we’re inspired. As husband-and-wife founders of the Oregon Psilocybin Society, we’re envisioning a historic push to legalize and regulate psilocybin services, also known as psilocybin assisted therapy, statewide. A growing number of people are getting behind the idea, largely in response to the latest science.

The research, coming from places like UCLA, NYU, and Johns Hopkins, shows that psilocybin, when administered as part of a therapeutic sequence, combats otherwise unrelenting anxiety, depression, addictions, OCD, and even cluster headaches. Additionally, carefully supervised psilocybin use is shown to enhance openness and creativity, promote a sense of overall well-being, and trigger spiritual growth. When properly administered, psilocybin poses no serious threat to a healthy human body.

The evolving psilocybin service model is unprecedented. Psilocybin, after all, is an off-patent, organic agent which creates change through the psychedelic experience it provides, such that a single experience most often changes a person’s disposition moving forward. It can eliminate the need for daily dosing of psych meds. And the psilocybin model, which includes preparation, psychedelic facilitation, and integration afterwards, doesn’t just match the effectiveness of a typical “meds and therapy” regimen. Where typical interventions fail, psilocybin therapy, with impressive frequency, breaks through.

And yet, psilocybin, with its benign risk profile, minimal side effects, and proven therapeutic benefits, still languishes on the DEA’s “Schedule I” – a kind of prison for illicit drugs with “no therapeutic value” and a “high potential for abuse.” To be clear, there is no scientific basis for psilocybin’s continued inclusion on Schedule I. While we can speculate as to why it remains there (it’s too revolutionary, there’s no money in it for big pharma, it runs afoul of the drug war), the bottom line is that people are suffering who could otherwise benefit from this safe and effective treatment. Countless others, perhaps not suffering as acutely, might also benefit profoundly, contributing to an altogether healthier society. The long winter of psychedelic prohibition, stretching 46 years and counting, has taken a toll.

Thankfully, the ice is beginning to thaw. Attitudes are evolving and progress is being made. Despite legal hindrances, psilocybin research, with fittingly flying colors, is headed toward a Phase III of an FDA approval process. Bigger studies should ensue, though it’s all made difficult by federal law. If the research progresses as planned, it’s reasonable to expect more positive outcomes. What’s not clear, however, is whether continued positive outcomes will translate into changed policy at the federal level. That, in a nutshell, is why we’ve decided to mobilize here in Oregon.

Tom and Sheri Eckert

OPS founders Tom and Sheri Eckert

It’s probably fitting that a shared entheogenic vision sparked the founding of our current project. On a clear evening last summer, surrounded by the majesty of Mother Nature, the two of us set out to experience the magic of the mushroom journey. Our chosen setting couldn’t have been better: an old growth forest of giant hemlocks and firs at the foot of Mount Rainier. As the ancient forest went dark, the Golden Teachers – a noble strain of psilocybin mushrooms – came alive. In the latter stages of a powerful trip, a dialogue took hold across the campfire.  Somewhere in that starry soup of shared consciousness, our minds “conceived.” Struck with a sense of the sacred, we suddenly understood what it means to bring forth a “child” of intention, a living energy conceived in thought, delivered in action, and lovingly raised for the psychedelic revolution for which it was designed.

In the spring of 2016, we gave birth to the Oregon Psilocybin Society (OPS). We hope to see it grow strong.

The OPS mission is two-fold. Firstly, we aim to develop a coalition of interested citizens and organizations who are in favor of legally regulating psilocybin services in Oregon. We will be encouraging member-participants to organize into pod groups in their home cities around Oregon, and to coordinate and collaborate with the OPS home group here in Portland. In this way, OPS intends to promote the science, safety, benefits, and risks of supervised psilocybin use to the Oregon citizenry, while laying the groundwork for a campaign.

The second part of the OPS mission is to organize ideas and energy around a Psilocybin Service Initiative of Oregon — an evolving blueprint which, with adequate support, could emerge as a ballot initiative during Oregon’s general election cycle in 2020 or thereafter. If passed, the measure would provide regulated access to Psilocybin Services in Oregon for those who qualify.

Oregon is one of 22 “ballot initiative” states in the country, which means that we have an opportunity to sketch a law that regulates the production, distribution, and possession of psilocybin, as well as certification criteria and standards for psychedelic facilitation. Once the measure is properly formatted and submitted to Oregon’s Secretary of State, we’d need to collect 88,000 petition signatures to get it on a general election ballot.

Such a vision, of course, isn’t easily materialized. We’ll need to raise awareness, mitigate fears, raise funds, hammer out sound policy, collect signatures, get on the ballot, and win. It will take time, resources, and a well-coordinated, collective push.

The timeline for the envisioned initiative will generally parallel the research trajectory. That being said, we know that psilocybin research is made difficult by regulatory hoops and funding challenges caused by current law, not to mention that an attempt to change federal drug policy will likely be contentious, regardless of empirical support. So we’re shooting for 2020, regardless of Phase III. We think the research will have rounded into form by then, enough to support a strong campaign.

Please keep in mind that we’re just getting started and we’ll be assessing things as we go. We’re welcoming of any thoughts, feedback, and/or questions that you might have. Please reach out to us through our contact form.

For a more in-depth look at regulated psilocybin services and the OPS agenda, please peruse our website and Facebook page. If you believe this work has value, please consider supporting the effort by becoming a member of the Oregon Psilocybin Society, which you can do here on the website. Anyone may join, from anywhere in the world.


Tom & Sheri Eckert

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