Voters in Oregon could decriminalize “magic mushrooms” in 2020, joining California and Denver, Colorado in their efforts to make the psychedelic fungus more easily available for medicinal research and treatment.
Currently, psychedelic mushrooms, which contain the active compound psilocybin, are classified as a Schedule I drug by the FDA, the same category as heroin. Possession is a felony nationwide. Schedule I is a classification reserved for drugs that have no medicinal value, so as researchers find promising results in testing psilocybin as a treatment for depression, anxiety, and addiction, that could change. Earlier this year, researchers at Johns Hopkins recommended that it be reclassified as Schedule IV, the same category as Xanax. Reclassification, however, could take up to five years.
In the meantime, state and local governments are taking matters into their own hands, working to decriminalize mushrooms. Oregon’s secretary of state approved language for a ballot initiative, and now organizers just need to get enough signatures before the 2020 election (they need 117,578 signatures to get on the ballot). The initiative would decriminalize possession of psilocybin and allow the mushrooms to be grown legally with a license.
“The intent of the 2020 Psilocybin Service Initiative of Oregon is to advance a breakthrough therapeutic model currently being perfected in research settings at top universities around the world, chief petitioners behind the initiative Tom and Sheri Eckert wrote on their website. “We envision a community-based framework, where licensed providers, along with licensed producers of psilocybin mushrooms, blaze trails in Oregon in accordance with evolving practice standards.”
Research into psilocybin is part of a larger trend of promising results in psychedelics-assisted psychotherapy, with once-feared drugs like LSD (acid) and MDMA (ecstasy) getting new life as potential medicine, with growing support for medical and recreational paving the way. LSD has shown promise as a way to help terminally ill patients prepare for death with less anxiety and fear, and MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD is currently in clinical trials and could be available by prescription as soon as 2021.
Much of the medicinal psychedelics research currently underway is being led, or at least supported, by the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). “We believe that drug policy should be grounded in science and compassion, so MAPS’ current policy priorities are eliminating barriers to psychedelic and marijuana research, and promoting harm reduction,” says Brad Burge, Director of Strategic Communications for MAPS, who also says the organization supports ballot initiatives, but is currently more focused on their work with the FDA. “MAPS’ mission is to develop medical, legal and cultural contexts for the careful and beneficial use of psychedelics. In these contexts, no one would be criminalized for the possession or use of psychedelics, or any drugs. People would have access to legal, regulated markets, both medical and otherwise, to safely benefit from intentional psychedelic use.”
A an initiative in Denver similar to the one in Oregon didn’t make it onto the ballot for the 2018 midterms after a series of delays, and organizers are now working toward getting it approved for 2019, hoping to take advantage of the additional time to educate voters rather than rushing to push for 2018. An initiative in California failed to qualify with enough signatures for the 2018 ballot as well. However, they reached 25 percent of their goal, or 90,000 signatures statewide, which organizers are hailing as progress and a promising sign for their next try. “I feel like we won already,” one organizer wrote on the initiative’s Facebook page.
Correction: This article previously stated that cocaine is listed by the DEA as a Schedule I drug. It is Schedule II.