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Deschutes County commissioners hear from many urging not to ‘opt out’ on state psilocybin program

Public hearing continued with evening session

(Update: Adding more video and comments from the hearing)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Deschutes County commissioners heard at a public hearing Wednesday from several people opposed to sending a ballot measure to voters this fall to "opt out" of psilocybin production in unincorporated areas of the county under a voter-approved program being implemented statewide next year.

Throughout the hearing, which continued Wednesday evening, there was an outpouring of support for regulated psilocybin production and treatment in the rural county, and against asking voters to ban it.

Under Measure 109, cities and counties are allowed to "opt out" of regulated psilocybin altogether, meaning any city or county can propose a ban on such facilities within their borders. Local voters have the final say. County commissioners decided to propose a ballot measure, concerned that the state has yet to finalize rules that will govern how local governments can establish land-use rules for applicants.

At the afternoon's public hearing, several veterans shared their challenges with post-traumatic stress disorder and how psilocybin was the only treatment that helped.

Redmond resident Christopher Maddox, a former Navy SEAL, testified, "Within four days of the treatment, I was completely revolutionized, in every aspect. … I love this place, and there are so many other people suffering from it, and I feel could be greatly affected."

Commissioners also heard from doctors who support the new program, including Dr. Sarah Betty, who researches psychedelic therapies and gave compelling testimony on the efficacy of psilocybin, and the importance of accessible treatment.

"When our patients have depression, PTSD and other mental health issues, they should not -- and many times cannot -- physically travel long distances to get accessible healing modalities." Betty said. "In my 12 years of training to become a doctor, I personally have not seen any medicine with this potential."

Joe Zeimentz, a Sunriver resident, said, "When I think about anxiety, depression, all the other health challenges that are skyrocketing -- really across the board. But, including within our county and our communities, we need to have all the tools in the toolbox as possible as possible. We need to provide access to all of those tools to as many as we can within our communities. Those tools have provided me a lot of health benefits."

Kevin Shaw, a Bend resident, explained that the controversy over marijuana grows shouldn't impact this program or decision.

"It's unfortunate that the marijuana industry got here first, because I think that has left a bad taste in our mouths," Shaw said. "You'd be driving down the road and you smell it, and it's just, you know. We looked at buying property and decided not to, because we were worried they were going to grow pot over here. It was not just a good experience, but this is different."

Many people spoke in favor of the drug's benefits, though the decision facing the county is not about its benefits but whether voters should be asked to opt out because the state isn't finished setting rules for the program.

Commissioners said they will keep the record open until 8 a.m. Monday for submissions and will deliberate on how to proceed at their meeting next Wednesday.

Article Topic Follows: Deschutes County
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Carly Keenan

Carly Keenan is a multimedia journalist and producer for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Carly here.

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Kelsey McGee

Kelsey McGee is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Kelsey here.

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