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Deschutes County commissioners send psilocybin ‘opt out’ measure to November ballot

(Update: Adding video, comments by county commissioners, executive director of Healing Advocacy Fund)

Vote was 2-1; commissioners explain their reasoning

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Voters across Deschutes County this fall will decide whether to “opt out” of psilocybin use and production in the unincorporated areas of the county.

The new psilocybin program gearing up in Oregon has been a heavy topic of debate as of late. As supporters of regulated psilocybin production share its benefits for those struggling with mental illness, giving voters the choice, under Measure 109, to "opt out" of the ordinance will prevent its use.

County commissioners decided Wednesday to put the proposal on the November ballot, allowing voters to determine whether psilocybin production and treatment will be banned in rural areas of the county. They and others have expressed concern about how the details of land-use rules will work out, as state regulations are still being fleshed out, just months before the January start of the program.

In a 2-1 vote Wednesday morning, Commissioner Phil Chang voted against voters being sent the "opt out" measure, while commissioners Patti Adair and Tony DeBone voted in support.

The executive director of the Healing Advocacy Fund, Sam Chapman, shared his disapproval in the decision.

“Deschutes County voters expressed their support for psilocybin therapy when Measure 109 passed in the county two years ago," he said, "and despite the promising results of psilocybin therapy and studies from leading universities from across the country, county commissioners as the local mental health authority have voted to delay and again, potentially block therapeutic options to address depression and end of life anxiety.”

Chapman also pointed out that veterans and terminally ill Oregonians will suffer without access to psilocybin.

Overwhelming support for psilocybin use at a recent county hearing centered around testimony from several veterans challenged with post-traumatic stress disorder, expressing how psilocybin improves their state of well-being. Commissioners also heard from doctors who support the drug's efficacy for treatment.

Chang, who voted against an "opt out" referral to voters, noted, "“All the people who talked about how effective the treatment was emphasized how important it was for it to be easy and accessible, and affordable.,"

Chang and Chapman said psilocybin administration would be heavily regulated and supervised at a licensed service center.

"People who are concerned about psilocybin, many of them are worried about the substance abuse, substance use disorders in our community and addiction," Chang said. "Ironically, psilocybin, A is proven to be non-addictive and B, it’s actually helpful in treating addiction to other substances."

Additionally, he said, no one would leave a facility under the influence of the substance.

Chapman said many people mistakenly mistake the psilocybin program with the recreational marijuana use program, which isn't regulated in the same way. He encouraged people to learn more about how psilocybin would be administered before they vote this fakk.

DeBone, who supported sending voters the “opt out” measure, said, “I want more people to understand what we’re talking about here. That’s really my goal."

He said it’s a matter of discussing details.

“What is time, place and manner? Would it be allowed on farmland? Would it be allowed on rural residential areas?" DeBone asked. "At least we’re getting people engaged, citizens engaged in the discussion.”

Adair, who voted in support of passing on the "opt out" referral to voters, sent the following statement to NewsChannel 21:

"I feel that it is important to ask the voters to seriously consider the implementation of psilocybin service centers in unincorporated Deschutes County. We have to consider the unintended consequences. We do have the benefit in Deschutes County to establish psilocybin service centers close to our major and regional hospital, St. Charles."

Crook County officials decided this week to draft a similar ordinance, in advance of a hearing set for Aug. 3. The Jefferson County clerk said they've have quite crossed that bridge yet, and there's still discussion to be had on how to move forward.

Article Topic Follows: Deschutes County
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Bola Gbadebo

Bola Gbadebo is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Bola here.

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