Government, Health, News

Banks City Council refers psilocybin facility moratorium to voters

Local voters will have the chance to decide this November if a two-year moratorium within the Banks city limits should be placed on the manufacture of psilocybin products and the opening of mental health clinics that administer psilocybin to patients. 

The Banks City Council, still with two open seats, unanimously agreed to place the question before voters before Measure 109, the 2020 ballot initiative, becomes state law on January 1, 2023. That’s when the Oregon Health Authority is required to begin accepting license applications for facilities where clients receive psilocybin, and for other related businesses. 

The majority of the council’s discussion occurred prior to the regular public meeting during the Banks City Council August 9 work session.

And prior to that, Mayor Stephanie Jones, City Attorney Dan Kearns, and the city councilors talked about an email the city received from a citizen asking why the city council was spending any time on psilocybin-related businesses and Measure 109.

Kearns, later on in that meeting after discussion of the citizen email had ended, said drafting the ballot measure and approving an ordinance to refer the issue to voters “is largely a theoretical exercise for Banks.”

What is Measure 109?

In November 2020, Oregon voters approved Measure 109, creating a statewide medical program overseen by the Oregon Health Authority to create programs for licensing, controlling, and regulating the manufacture of products containing psilocybin – the compound found in more than 200 species of fungi, commonly known as “psychedelic mushrooms,” which remains a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law.

Measure 109 requires the state to start accepting license applications on January 1, 2023, Oregon in 2023 for facilities where clients receive psilocybin — it has been shown to help those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, addiction, end-of-life distress, trauma — in a therapeutic setting with a mental health counselor. 

The Oregon Health Authority, however, has yet to write the rules for licensing, controlling, and regulating the market, which will be restricted to state-licensed clinics and facilities. However, it is known that psilocybin will not be sold legally for recreational purposes like cannabis is in Oregon, and can only be administered by licensed health care professionals inside a clinic.

City council’s decision

During the Aug. 9 work session, Mayor Stephanie Jones said local voters “came in almost 50-50” on Measure 109 in 2020 and agreed with all four city councilors who unanimously voted to return the issue to the ballot rather than allowing the law to take effect on Jan. 1. September 8 is the deadline for measures to be included on the November general election ballot. 

During the regular city council meeting, Jones offered an explanation to the public of why the city is drafting this ballot measure.

“Basically, our thought process is we want to do this because the city of Banks in looking at the specific vote was really 50-50 on this, so this gives the citizens of Banks another opportunity to cast their vote and say what they want to have happen for the city.”

Councilor Marsha Kirk said the city of Banks already has an ordinance banning marijuana dispensaries from operating in a residential zone or within 1,000 feet of a school. That leaves “about six square inches on the zoning map” for a facility administering psilocybin to open, she said.

A city of Banks ordinance doesn’t allow retail marijuana sales within the city limits. However, cannabis companies are permitted to operate and do, in areas of the city zoned for manufacturing, commercial, and industrial businesses, which could include a laboratory.

Kearns said it would be possible for a psilocybin-related business to open in a commercial, industrial, or manufacturing zone. The requirement that no facility can sell marijuana recreationally or medically within 1,000 feet of a school also would apply to a medical facility that wants to open and administer psilocybin to patients.

What would a psilocybin clinic look like?

An Oregon Health Authority .pdf outlines how a clinic would operate. 

Patients will be called “clients” and anyone 21 years old or older can receive psilocybin services without a medical referral or prescription. 

A licensed facilitator will meet a client for a “preparation session.” The client will then receive and consume a psilocybin dose and then proceed with a therapy session that can last six hours

Clients have the option of a follow-up appointment to discuss their insights during the experience and how to integrate them into daily life.

Psilocybin is known to help those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, addiction, end-of-life distress, and trauma.

What research shows

A 2020 study published by JAMA Psychiatry, and another 2022 study published by the Journal of Psychopharmacology, both found that patients in carefully controlled conditions relieved major depressive symptoms for about 30 days. 

Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research backed those studies, and a Johns Hopkins Medicine press release says that with ongoing, supportive psychotherapy, and additional treatments, the effect may last a year in some patients. 

Would crime in Banks increase?

Councilor Jeff Thompson wanted to know if an increased police presence would be needed if psilocybin-based businesses open in Banks. Kirk said she thought Thompson was worried about crime that could occur around a psilocybin clinic, like what often occurs near methadone clinics, but that this would not be the case.

“Methadone is a treatment for illegal drug addiction,” Kearns said. “This is not. It’s a treatment for a number of psychological problems. This is more like a medical clinic than a rehab. I’ve not heard of any vice associated with these facilities. Who knows? We’re the first state in the union to do this so it’s unknown. 

Kirk said that if a psilocybin manufacturer or similar type of business did open in Banks an operator would not be advertising its location.

“I’m pretty sure it would be pretty under the radar, so I don’t think we’re going to have a crime problem,” Kirk said.

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