Two years ago, counselor couple Sheri and Tom Eckert started the Oregon Psilocybin Society, “an evolving coalition of individuals, networks, and organizations which, in response to a growing body of reputable research, aims to raise awareness about the safety and benefits of controlled ‘Psilocybin Services.’”
The couple is now hoping to get the Psilocybin Service Initiative of Oregon, which would allow for supervised psilocybin use, on the 2020 state ballot. Currently, psilocybin, known more commonly as “magic mushrooms” or simply “‘schrooms,” is listed as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning the government has determined it has “high potential for abuse” and there is “no currently accepted medical treatment use in the U.S” for the drug.
Psilocybin has been associated with causing incidents of fear and paranoia in users, although there is limited evidence it is harmful beyond this mental discomfort. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says that “effects of overdose include: Longer, more intense ‘trip’ episodes, psychosis, and possible death,” and that, “abuse of psilocybin mushrooms could also lead to poisoning if one of the many varieties of poisonous mushrooms is incorrectly identified as a psilocybin mushroom.”
Only recently have studies suggested that psilocybin be effective in treating depression and cancer-related anxiety, as well as in helping to kick other addictions, including cigarettes and alcohol. These studies provide the basis for the Eckerts push for legalization. “The initiative attempts to reflect evolving best practice standards in relation to safety and effectiveness as established by scientific research at top universities,” Tom Eckert said. Referring to the recent headlines regarding psilocybin, Sheri added that the couple immediately asked themselves, “How can we be a part of this – how can we introduce this modality to Oregonians?”
The Eckerts aren’t looking just for the legalization of the drug for medical use, either. For anyone over 21 who passes a screening, “psilocybin services might also be accessed for personal development,” Tom Eckert said, “to enhance a general sense of well-being, openness and creativity, and spiritual connectedness…It enhances creativity, it enhances openness.”
“As therapists, we know that personality doesn’t change easily,” he explained. “Where typical pharma-type interventions fall short, psilocybin is really breaking through with pretty amazing frequency.” He added, “It’s the experience that creates change in people.”
The legalization of psilocybin, from the Eckert’s counselor perspective, would be more structured than the legalization of cannabis and include licensed production centers and facilities. Clients would undergo multiple sessions to include an orientation, ingesting at least one session to help the user integrate the experience with real life.
“We envision a very regulated production center that the state keeps track of inventory and things of that nature, so we know that it’s not getting out where it shouldn’t be getting out to,” Sheri said.
“We are still working on getting the language into final form, which should be accomplished in the next few months,” said Tom. “We can begin gathering signatures in July of 2018 to get this on the 2020 ballot.”
Rob Bovett, legal counsel for the Association of Oregon Counties said that even if magic mushrooms were legalized at the state level, “there wouldn’t be anything stopping the feds from prosecuting them…[facilities and their facilitators] would just be out in the open, committing federal crimes with no protection.”
Bovett added that more than counselor sign-off would need to happen before the laws will change. He said culture shift would likely have to take place like the one that pushed through the legalization of cannabis. “You would have to see a grassroots movement to allow this kind of experimentation to go forward.”