What Is Oregon Measure 109?

Oregon Measure 109, also known as the Oregon Psilocybin Services Act, was a ballot issue to approve the legalization of the use of psilocybin products—such as are found in psilocybin-producing mushrooms and fungi—to individuals aged 21 years or older in a controlled clinical setting for the treatment of mental health issues. 

As of 2020 the manufacturing and consumption of psilocybin was illegal under both federal and state law. The measure passed in the Nov. 3, 2020 general election. Results were 55.68% in favor, 44.32% against. Oregon has a liberal history with regard to controlled substances, having been the first U.S. state to legalize the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, in 1998, and extending that to recreational use for people 21 and over in 2015.

Key Takeaways

  • Oregon Measure 109 for the use of psilocybin in a supervised clinical setting to treat mental illness passed Nov. 3, 2020.
  • Psilocybin is a hallucinogenic chemical obtained from certain mushrooms and fungi.
  • The Oregon Psilocybin Society (OPS) was the primary proponent of Oregon Measure 109.
  • Both the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and Oregon Psychiatric Physician Association (OPPA) opposed the measure.

What Is Psilocybin?

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) defines psilocybin as an “hallucinogenic chemical obtained from certain types of fresh and dried mushrooms.” In street terms these mushrooms are known as “magic mushrooms,” “hallucinogenic mushrooms,” or “shrooms.” On a federal level, psilocybin is classified as a Schedule I drug by the DEA. According to the 1971 Controlled Substance Act, Schedule I drugs are not approved for medical use and have a high potential for abuse and dependence. 

The Drug Policy Alliance, however, claims that psilocybin is not addictive because “the human body quickly builds tolerance to psilocybin, such that people require much higher doses after only a few days of repeated use, making it extremely difficult to have any effect after more than four days of repeated usage.” Moreover, in 2019 the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) called the therapeutic use of psilocybin a “breakthrough therapy” in the treatment of severe depression and major depressive disorder.  

Forces Behind Oregon Measure 109

The “Yes on 109” campaign was led by the Oregon Psilocybin Society (OPS), founded in 2016 by psychotherapists Tom and Sheri Eckert, of Portland, Ore., to “raise awareness about the safety and benefits of controlled ‘Psilocybin Services.’” OPS said evidence supported its belief that psilocybin-assisted therapy is not only safe but could be effective in addressing suicide, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and addiction. Two committees, PSI 2020 and Yes for Psilocybin Therapy, supported Measure 109, reporting $4.5 million in cash and in-kind contributions. The largest contributor, New Approach PAC, provided more than $3.3 million of the total. 

While there were no organized committees in opposition, both the Oregon Psychiatric Physician Association (OPPA) and American Psychiatric Association (APA) were opposed to passage of Oregon Measure 109. The national organization, in a letter to the Oregon Secretary of State, noted its opposition to the measure, adding that if it got on the ballot, officials should “explicitly address the science and extreme risks associated with the use of psilocybin in the voter’s guide explanatory statement.” The OPPA statement said, in part, “Measure 109 is unsafe and makes misleading promises to Oregonians who are struggling with mental illness.” 

Two Years

The amount of time that Oregon Measure 109 stipulates for the development of a psilocybin treatment program

Understanding Oregon Measure 109

Once Oregon Measure 109 becomes law, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) will have two years to develop and establish the psilocybin treatment program, with advice from the Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board (OPAB). Provisions of the measure further stipulate that:

  • Oregon state law will be amended to require the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to establish the Oregon Psilocybin Services Program.
  • The OHA would decide who is eligible to be licensed as a facilitator; determine required qualifications, education, training, and needed exams; and create a code of professional conduct for facilitators.
  • OHA would set psilocybin dosage standards as well as labeling and packaging rules.
  • Clients would be required to undergo a preparation session before they would be allowed to purchase, possess, and consume psilocybin.
  • Clients would also be required to consume psilocybin at a licensed service center and under the supervision of a psilocybin service facilitator.
  • Cities and counties would be permitted to place referendums on local ballots either to allow or prohibit psilocybin-product manufacturers or psilocybin service centers in unincorporated areas within their jurisdictions. (Measure 109 prohibits psilocybin service centers within city incorporation limits.)

The full text of Oregon Measure 109 is available at OregonVotes.org.

Oregon Measure 109 does not decriminalize psilocybin on the federal level.

Pros of Oregon Measure 109

Proponents of Measure 109 and psilocybin therapy said the measure would:

  • Establish a regulated psilocybin therapy program in the state, but not decriminalize psilocybin on the federal level.
  • Provide “breakthrough therapy” to residents suffering from anxiety and depression
  • Leverage research from major institutions.
  • Potentially provide effective therapies for addiction and other mental health challenges.
  • Provide effective treatment without the adverse side effects of pharmaceuticals.

Cons of Oregon Measure 109

Opponents pointed out what they saw as defects in the measure.

  • Psilocybin therapy is unsafe and unproven for the treatment of addiction, depression, anxiety disorders, and end of-life psychological distress, all of which are permitted under Measure 109.
  • Phase 3 trials for psilocybin therapy have not yet started.
  • Therapy may interact adversely with other medications.
  • The use of nonmedical providers (facilitators) to administer psilocybin therapy is “dangerous.”
  • It’s reckless to not require diagnosed illness for treatment to be approved.