Pubdate: Thu, 05 Nov 2020
Source: Wall Street Journal (US)
Copyright: 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
Author: Donald Morrison


Oregon became the first state in the nation to decriminalize the
possession of all illegal drugs and also legalize the use of
psilocybin-the active ingredient in hallucinogenic mushrooms-for
mental health treatment, after voters passed a pair of ballot measures
this week.

Both are the first of their kind in any U.S. state and represent the
next frontier in the relaxation of drug laws beyond marijuana.

With results from 76% of precincts reporting early Wednesday morning,
59% of Oregonians approved Measure 110, the drug decriminalization
referendum, and 56% voted for Measure 109 on psilocybin therapy,
according to the Associated Press.

"There are a lot of parallels between what Oregon is trying to do now
and what states were doing with marijuana 40 years ago," said Robert
Mikos, a law professor at Vanderbilt University who has written about
marijuana legalization. "As long as the sky doesn't fall in Oregon,
some other states might follow suit."

Also Tuesday, voters in the District of Columbia approved a measure
decriminalizing psilocybin. With 61% of precincts there reporting,
support was at 76%, according to the AP. Several cities previously
passed similar measures, including Oakland and Santa Cruz in
California, as well as Denver.

Measures legalizing possession of marijuana for recreational or
medical reasons passed in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South
Dakota according to the AP.

Oregon's Measure 110 makes possession of any controlled substance,
including heroin, cocaine or methamphetamines, a violation punishable
by a maximum fine of $100 or a completed health assessment. It also
establishes a new statewide drug treatment system funded in part by
tax revenue from marijuana sales and state prison savings.

The campaign in favor of Measure 110 raised $4.5 million and the one
for Measure 109 raised $5.7 million, while opposing campaigns raised
virtually nothing, according to campaign finance reports. Proponents
of Measure 110, including the Democratic Party of Oregon and the
American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, said people suffering with
addiction should have greater access to rehabilitation and not face
criminal punishment.

"We don't have enough tools in our toolbox, there's just no question
about that," said Democratic State Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward,
from Portland.

Oregon was the first state to decriminalize the possession of
cannabis, for similar reasons, in 1973. Many of the state's district
attorneys and Republican politicians said the new measure was
counterproductive because the threat of criminal penalties helped to
push some addicts to accept treatment.

Measure 109, meanwhile, gives the state public health department two
years to develop regulations and create a program responsible for
manufacturing and dispensing psilocybin to adults aged 21 or older
seeking therapy with a trained facilitator for everything from
post-traumatic stress disorder to nicotine dependence.

"We're going to take our time and do it right," said Tom Eckert, a
psychotherapist who was a chief sponsor of the bill along with his
psychotherapist wife Sheri. "We're in a mental health crisis and we
need new treatment options."

Like cannabis, the Drug Enforcement Administration classifies
psilocybin as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it isn't approved for medical
use and there's a high potential for abuse and addiction.

Psilocybin is a naturally occurring chemical in more than 200 species
of fungi that can cause visual and auditory hallucinations and an
inability to discern fantasy from reality.

Research has shown that it can reduce anxiety and stress among cancer
patients and people diagnosed with PTSD. Some supporters of its
medical use also say it can be helpful for anyone looking for help
with a persistent mental health issue.

But the Oregon Psychiatric Physicians Association and the American
Psychiatric Association opposed the measure, arguing that there isn't
enough evidence to support psilocybin's use in mental health treatment.

"Psilocybin research trials are in the early stages," said OPPA
President Nicole Cirino. "We need to know what type of mental illness
it actually treats and what safety precautions, doses, follow up
measures we need in place to use it safely and effectively.
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MAP posted-by: Matt