The Shroomdocks | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

The Shroomdocks

The Deschutes County Planning Commission drafted rules for psilocybin use in rural Deschutes County, but residents are torn over their use at destination resorts

Oregon became the first state in the country to legalize psilocybin therapy in 2020, and starting next year psilocybin manufacturers, processors and service centers will be able to apply for licenses to operate. The ballot measure passed with 56% of the voters, largely from urban areas, though since then 25 of Oregon's 36 counties voted to opt out of the measure. Deschutes and Jackson are the only two counties that voted against a county-wide opt out of the program — and now, the Deschutes County Commissioners are deciding time, place and manner restrictions for psilocybin facilities in the unincorporated parts of Deschutes County.

The Shroomdocks
Photo courtesy of Mädi via Wikimedia
Magic mushrooms are a Schedule 1 drug for the Drug Enforcement Agency, but clinical studies show they have positive impacts for mental health disorders.

Incorporated communities can regulate psilocybin on a municipal basis. Redmond voters approved a two-year moratorium on any psilocybin services during this past election, while La Pine banned all magic mushroom visits. Bend didn't have an opt-out measure on the ballot. Deschutes County voters rejected the opt-out for the unincorporated parts of the county with about 57% of the vote; in unincorporated Deschutes County where these time, place and manner restrictions apply, 53% of people rejected the prospect of an opt out. Some counties aren't drafting any time place and manner restrictions, relying on their own land use rules to approve or disapprove psilocybin facilities on an individual basis.

"There's a lot more variables when there's not rules in place," said Tanya Saltzman, a senior planner with Deschutes County. "In Deschutes County they would have to come in under what's called a similar use ruling or decision. The onus is on the applicant. They'd have to say, 'This is my business, and I believe that it's going to operate or have the same impacts as other uses that's already listed in the code."

In late September the Deschutes County Planning Commission finalized recommendations allowing psilocybin manufacturing and processing in land zoned as forest use and exclusive farm use. Manufacturing and processing of psilocybin mushrooms have a pretty small footprint, Ben Unger, a consultant for Measure 109, told the Source in July. It's likely just a few small workspaces the size of a garage will likely be able to supply all of Deschutes County. Most of the public testimony at the commission's public hearing and written comments beforehand related to the placement of service centers and where state-licensed facilitators will administer the psilocybin.

"Service centers is where it's been a real challenge to figure out what is allowed by law and what's not, because this is a whole new ballgame for basically everybody in the state," Saltzman said. "Unincorporated counties are super restrictive for what you can and cannot do."

Salzman said after working with the state's Department of Land Conservation and Development, there are two mechanisms to allow service centers on farmland: home occupation and commercial activity in conjunction with farm use. Though possible, siting a service center on farmland comes with a lot of hurdles.

"[The Planning Commission] recommended keeping those doors open for now; we know it's still going to be really difficult to go through those processes. For instance, commercial activity in conjunction with farm use has a ton of restrictions built in, in terms of income proportion it has to be a certain percentage of the income generated by the farm use," Saltzman said.

Under the current recommendations service centers in rural commercial areas, Sunriver Commercial zones, Sunriver's Town Center, Terrebonne Commercial zones, Tumalo Commercial zones and in destination resorts. Public testimony to the Board of County Commissioners has mostly been about destination resorts. Saltzman estimated about 90% of testimony submitted to County Commissioners focused on resort destinations and was split pretty evenly between those in favor of psilocybin at destination resorts and those against. A spokesperson for Juniper Preserve, formerly Pronghorn Resort, directly asked commissioners to allow service centers in destination resorts.

"The Planning Commission recommended to allow service centers in destination resort zones, based largely on a number of factors, one being how critical a nature-based quiet setting is with no distractions, how critical a multi-day stay is to be able to have that administration session and then be able to reintegrate back into life after the session and therapeutically go over the experience you just had," said Corinne Celko, a land-use attorney working with Juniper Preserve.

On the other side, critics of psilocybin at resorts say they're expensive and would prioritize wealthy tourists, that resorts are far from emergency services, that any psilocybin use in an outdoor setting would be disruptive and that it'd change the character of resort neighborhoods.

Deschutes County Commissioners will consider the planning commission's TPM restrictions on Dec. 14. The commissioners are going to attempt to make it an emergency declaration so they can implement the policy before people can apply for permits, rather than the statutory 90 days for non-emergency declarations. Emergency declarations must be unanimous, and if commissioners can't agree it's possible it'd open a brief window where applicants can apply to be a service center without the county's rules in place.

About The Author

Jack Harvel

Jack is originally from Kansas City, Missouri and has been making his way west since graduating from the University of Missouri, working a year and a half in Northeast Colorado before moving to Bend in the Spring of 2021. When not reporting he’s either playing folk songs (poorly) or grand strategy video games,...
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