City Government

Council debate ‘mushrooms:’ Creswell, Cottage Grove consider psilocybin production, use

Across rural Lane County – including Creswell and Cottage Grove – municipalities are tripped up by the 2020 statewide legalization of the use and manufacturing of psilocybin – more commonly known as “magic mushrooms.”

Psilocybin (sai ·luh ·sai ·bn) is its scientific name, though hard to pronounce, is becoming even harder to ban. At this week’s Creswell City Council meeting, councilors struggled with its next moves on the proposed ordinance.

Similar to the way that manufacturing and use of marijuana was legalized in 2014, Measure 109 – the Psilocybin Program – was approved by Oregon voters in 2020. The measure stated that the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) would house the nation’s first legal system in place that could offer psilocybin – a naturally occurring psychedelic compound produced by fungi – under the direction of a licensed facilitator to adults age 21 and over for therapeutic purposes, including:

■ Combating drug addiction

■ Depression

■ Suicidal ideation

■ Post-traumatic stress disorders

Now, Creswell and Cottage Grove enter the debate — with both city councils discussing what decision to put in the hands of voters in the upcoming Nov. 8 general election. In Creswell, all councilors were in agreement that the people should get to vote; however, what will be on the ballot was discussed at length, and with passion.

OHA has not yet released complete plans on how these facilities would operate, or guidelines for cities time, place and manner restrictions of psilocybin use. Many councilors, across both cities, lamented the lack of information and therefore their inability to make an informed decision.

In Creswell, the council weighed implementing an ordinance banning psilocybin or a moratorium that would push the final decision to 2024.

Council president Kevin Prociw said that was in favor of a moratorium, because it allows time  for reevaluation when more information is available by the OHA, placing trust in the voters at that time.

On Tuesday, Prociw expressed concern that if psilocybin is banned, it may not be discussed again by the council, as has been the case with Creswell’s stance on cannabis dispensaries.

In 2017, Creswell voters shot down the proposal to regulate and tax recreational marijuana businesses in the November election. It was by no slim margin; 85 percent of voters rejected the vote, with only 301 voters in favor. The topic of marijuana dispensaries in Creswell has not been revisited since.

The implication is that a moratorium would allow psilocybin facilities in Creswell for the next two years, with no way of removing businesses established within that time frame, even if a ban is put on the ballot in 2024.

Councilor Tammy Schuck was in favor of the ban. “We do not know what this looks like in real life … I feel passionate about this, I do not want this in our cities. If we do nothing tonight, then these service practitioners are going to move into town.” Schuck argued that enacting a ban puts the council in more control.

Councilor Alonzo Costilla raised potential safety concerns around waste management from the facilities. He wanted more information before making a decision, he said.

After a passionate discussion, all but Prociw voted in favor of the motion to ban. “We are now locked into a ban or no ban,” said Prociw Tuesday morning.

Since the vote was not unanimous, a second meeting was needed to enact a resolution. If council votes in majority, the ban measure will be placed on the November ballot.

At Tuesday’s special meeting, councilor Tammy Schuck made a motion for the ban and Alonzo Costilla seconded.

“The mental health crisis in this country and in our state is huge right now,” Councilor Misty Inman said. “There’s data and research that mushrooms can be very beneficial with mental health and substance and alcohol abuse. This could be a game-changer for people. … But I also have faith in the future and future councilors and citizens and it’s ultimately the decision of the citizens of Creswell. I’m OK with supporting the ban and allowing citizens to make that decision.”

Prociw expressed similar sentiments and spoke of his own battle with depression. Although he said he has found ways to manage it, he acknowledges others might not have the same experience and need alternative treatments.

“The idea that there’s another potential treatment leads me to how I feel about the moratorium. Because we don’t know or understand the OHA rules, I do not think it’s a good idea for Creswell right now but at the same time, I want to be cautious about a ban.”

Because there was already a motion for a ban on the table, Prociw ultimately showed support. “I am going to put trust in the council and the people to prompt the council if they want to look at this again in the future,” he said.

Councilor Schuck and Costilla were still in favor of the ban.

My position has not changed,” Costilla said. “We’re also in a very unique situation. It’s an opportunity to empower our citizens to put their vote in their hands,” he said, noting that it would be easier to allow psilocybin in the future after a ban than to eradicate it after allowance.

Mayor Dave Stram said that he is open to the possibility of services, but not right now.

“There are so many things to consider, ” Stram said. “The mental health crisis is great in our country, but Oregon is the first state that has approved this product. I’m not necessarily sure I just want to jump on the bandwagon because we’re in the first year.”

Although the council was not all in agreement on a personal level, the ordinance passed unanimously. The measure will be placed on the Nov. 8 ballot for a ban on psilocybin production and use.

If a “no” vote is majority, the service theoretically should be allowed in January, but councilors and city manager Michelle Amberg, and Stram do not anticipate that quick of a turnaround.

If a “yes” vote is the majority, then a ban will be put on psilocybin. This ban can possibly be lifted in the future, but would have to originate within the city council and then be voted in by the people.lated for Aug. 9. 

In Cottage Grove, the ban on psilocybin use and manufacturing was met with little debate. The city council voted unanimously on July 25 to temporarily ban psilocybin use and manufacturing within the city limits and defer the decision to voters. On the November ballot, residents will decide whether to overturn the ban or keep it in place.

Like councilors in Creswell, city councilor Greg Ervin questioned the lack of information provided by OHA. The ordinance, to potentially introduce safeguards to slow down the introduction of state-sanctioned psilocybin treatment systems, hinges on OHA guidelines that have yet to be released.

“This is the same path we ran into with the cannabis production,” said Jeff Gowing, Cottage Grove mayor. “I regret allowing it every time I get stuck in traffic in front of the old Hard Knocks Brewery,” which is across the street from The Holistic Co-Op marijuana dispensary. “We could have prevented that back when it first came up.”

Councilor Chalice Savage said that she feels “really conservative on this topic … It’s a bright, shiny brand new iPhone and it’s going to come out of gates and have issues. I’d rather be a little conservative, hold back and see how things play out. We can have this discussion again in a couple years.”

Contact reporters Bork and Norgrove at [email protected] and [email protected]