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Oregon counselors want to legalize hallucinogenic mushrooms


Oregonians could be voting on legalizing psychedelic mushrooms in 2020. People behind the Psilocybin Service Initiative said Wednesday that so far, the headlines about their measure have been all wrong.

NewsChannel 21 spoke with the chief petitioners of the initiative, Sheri and Tom Eckert. They’re both counselors in Portland.

They said their measure is not about legalizing the mushrooms but rather creating access to psilocybin services and using psilocybin in assisted therapy.

The Eckerts said Oregon’s consistently high rates of mental illness were part of what inspired their drive to push for the legalization of psilocybin. They want to use it in a controlled setting to treat ailments such as addiction, depression and PTSD (among other things).

Psilocybin is the hallucinogen inside what some call “magic mushrooms.” However, the Eckerts were very clear: Legalizing psilocybin is not the same as legalizing marijuana.

“It’s a little different than cannabis, where (when) we heard the word legalization, we think it’s going to be in stores or dispensaries or something like that,” Tom said. “It’s absolutely not that.”

Sheri added, “When people hear the word recreation, they think you can just go to a store and purchase it and take it home. With the measure that we’ve created, the product itself will never leave the service center.”

The proposed plan for psilocybin​​​​​​​-assisted therapy would work something like this:

Clients would be assessed by trained “facilitators” who would diagnose and prepare the client for his or her psilocybin​​​​​​​ session ahead of time. The client would ingest the psilocybin​​​​​​​ (which could eventually come in many different forms, such as tea) and facilitators would supervise the client through the whole experience in what will be called a “service center.” Facilitators would make sure clients are safe, comfortable and grounded if need be. The client would not leave the service center until the experience was over. Then, at some point, the facilitator and client would discuss the experience for treatment/healing purposes.

“When you sit with individuals for decades and you see that they have hard to treat depression, or you see that they’re struggling with very hard-to-treat PTSD (or) various other addictions,” Sheri said, “you sit with them and you want to help them in ways that psychotherapy alone isn’t as effective as psychedelics and psychotherapy.”

For the Psilocybin Service Initiative to make it onto the 2020 general election ballot, the measure needs 140,000 voter signatures.

If Oregonians were to approve the initiative, it would also decriminalize psilocybins and allow for the licensed manufacturing and administration of the substances.

In the United States, possession of psilocybin is a felony, as they are classified as a Schedule I substance.

In recent years, some studies have shown that “magic mushrooms” can have positive effects, especially those undergoing cancer treatments and chemical depression.

“The intent of the 2020 Psilocybin Service Initiative of Oregon is to advance a breakthrough therapeutic model currently being perfected in research settings at top universities around the world,” the Eckerts write on the campaign’s website.

NewsChannel 21 reached out to several people against the measure, or psilocybin​​​​​​​ in general, and did not hear back from anyone before air time.

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