Over the next several months, people may encounter local volunteers asking for signatures to get a statewide initiative on the ballot to legalize the therapeutic uses of psilocybin, or psychedelic mushrooms.
Becca Recker, the volunteer coordinator for the PSI 2020 Initiative, said people have shown interest in volunteering. More than 20 people attended a volunteer training held at Fort George Brewery on Friday.
“Astoria is known as a psilocybin destination,” Recker said. “There is a lot of psychedelic underground work here where people have been guiding psilocybin sessions for people for decades.”
The area is also known for Psilocybe azurescens, the most potent psychedelic mushroom, which was identified near Astoria by mycologist Paul Stamets.
If the initiative is approved by voters, it will allow psilocybin to be administered in licensed therapeutic environments and supervised by trained facilitators. It would require the Oregon Health Authority to establish the program.
Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration designated psilocybin therapy as a “breakthrough therapy,” and Johns Hopkins University is researching psilocybin to treat depression and addiction, among other things.
However, psilocybin is still classified as a Schedule I drug under federal law.
Recker said many people still associate psychedelics with media and imagery from the 1960s.
“That imagery just took over and if you talked to someone who had a therapeutic psilocybin session it’s much different,” she said.
Oscar Nelson, part-owner of Sweet Relief and the Astoria CBD Co., attended the volunteer training and is helping to facilitate a drop-off location for the signatures collected.
“Psychedelics have been a part of my personal, spiritual path and then also something that has brought me out of depression and addiction and has given me a quality of life that I don’t see how I would have gotten any other way,” he said.
However, Nelson doesn’t believe the drug is for everybody and should be available in a safe setting. He said psilocybin helps push people beyond their day-to-day perspective and see themselves from a new vantage point.
“I hope that as these things progress that it can be more above ground and more open,” he said.
“The goal is to get this on the ballot, and then the Oregonians can choose. But if it doesn’t get on the ballot, then people don’t even have the option to say ‘yes’ or ‘no,’” Nelson said.
Recker described the initiative as one of many layers in drug policy reform.
She said the initiative works hand in hand with the decriminalization of drugs and advocating for using marijuana tax money to pay for more addiction and recovery services.
“Our mission ... is to create a therapeutic program for Oregon with the understanding that that is only one tributary towards this larger river of creating more access to people who need more options for mental health,” Recker said.
“The more information people have about the measure, the more they are in support of it, and that’s not just our opinion, that’s what the polling has shown us,” she said.