Measure 109 legalizes the use of the plant medicine psilocybin in a clinical setting. It was spearheaded by two Portland therapists, Sheri and Thomas Eckert, who have been working to make psilocybin legal and accessible for years.
Psilocybin may induce an altered state of consciousness with feelings of euphoria, visual and mental hallucinations, changes in perception, a distorted sense of time as well as spiritual experiences.
The Eckerts say the medicine works to shift reoccurring neurological loops, breaking the cycle of intrusive flashbacks that debilitate people suffering from ongoing trauma and depression. A trained therapist can help clients integrate their psilocybin experience and improve their outlook on life and sense of well-being, proponents say.
The passage of Measure 109 doesn't mean new psilocybin stores on every street corner. Instead, the medicine will only be available through licensed psilocybin therapists (within licensed clinics) who will control dosage and screen out people who may be prone to negative side effects. The Oregon Health Authority will be charged with licensing, training and ongoing educational requirements.
Critics of the measure argue that it will create a medical model around a form of therapy that indigenous cultures have been using for centuries. In reality, the Oregon Supreme Court has officially honored the religious use of hallucinogens as a First Amendment right since the 1980s.
This measure cracks open a door that has been bolted shut since the Controlled Substances Act made psilocybin a Schedule I drug in 1970. Promising research began in the 1960s that demonstrated psilocybin could help with alcoholism, depression and anxiety. That research has seen a renaissance in recent years at institutions like Johns Hopkins University and Harvard University, and in 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration designated psilocybin as a "breakthrough therapy" for treating major depressive disorder.
Oregon ranks dead last in the country for high rates of mental illness combined with low access to care. Add that to the isolation and economic fallout caused by the pandemic and we have a crisis that calls out for innovative solutions. Measure 109 presents the opportunity to not only help Oregonians, but make history in the process.