Hermiston Voters to Have Say on Magic Mushroom Centers

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The Hermiston City Council has joined Umatilla County in voting to put a ballot measure before voters in November that would allow the city to ban psilocybin manufacturing and service centers.

Statewide, voters passed Measure 109 last November which, beginning in January 2023, will allow the manufacturing, selling and administering of psilocybin – or its more common name, magic mushrooms.

The centers would essentially be a place – though not considered a health care facility – where an individual can go and – with the help of a staff member to monitor the effects – ingest psilocybin. It must be ingested onsite. No outside sales are allowed.

The state gave local governments the option to put before voters a ballot measure to ban the psilocybin centers within city limits – an opt-out option. Morrow County and Umatilla County commissioners have already voted to put similar ballot measures on the November ballot.

City Planner Clint Spencer gave a 15-minute overview on Ballot Measure 109, psilocybin and what municipalities can and cannot do.

What is psilocybin? It’s a compound found in mushrooms which produces feelings of euphoria with hallucinogenic effects that can last for hours. It’s federally classified as a Schedule 1 narcotic.

Spencer pointed out that in recent years, studies have shown potential for psilocybin to provide health benefits for people suffering with cancer, anxiety, depression and other issues.

Spencer said the state has yet to complete its rules and requirements for how psilocybin centers can operate, yet it is asking local governments to make a decision on allowing them in their communities. That doesn’t sit well with the Hermiston City Council, which spent a good portion of its work session Monday discussing the issue prior to its regular council meeting.

“How can we make a decision based on rules we don’t have in front of us?” asked Councilor Doug Primmer. “This is a no-brainer. You can’t allow something that you don’t know what the rules will be. This is like giving someone a blank check and I’m not going to sign it.”

Councilor Nancy Peterson said they would prefer to wait to see the results of clinical trials that are going on.

“If the science is not there yet, I would greatly hesitate until we see more case studies,” said Peterson.

Mayor Dave Drotzmann said he thinks the state is going down a slippery slope, citing the passage of Measure 110 in 2020 which decriminalized possession of small amounts of all drugs.

“This sends a bad message to our children that drugs are OK,” he said. Drotzmann also pointed out that the city – or voters through the ballot measure process – can put the issue on future ballots.

During its regular meeting, the council voted unanimously to direct staff to prepare text for a ballot measure to be put before voters in November, thereby giving them the chance say whether or not they want to allow psilocybin centers to operate in town.

The council also briefly discussed putting before voters another ballot measure repealing the local ban on recreational marijuana sales. After the state legalized the sale of recreational marijuana in 2014, local governments were given the chance to pass their own ordinances banning retail pot stores. Hermiston voters passed such a measure in 2015, 54 percent to 46 percent.

There was little appetite among the councilors to revisit that issue.

“The voters have already spoken,” said Primmer. “If someone wants to go through the signatory process and put it on the ballot, they can do that.” That was the consensus of the council, as well.

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