Can a religious exemption boost legal access to psilocybin in Oregon?

OIn a few weeks, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) is expected to finalize the first official rules for how its legal psilocybin therapy works. It’s the next big step after Oregon voters approved the program as part of Measure 109 in November 2020. But not everyone is happy with the expected results, and a different path to it. access to psilocybin is growing.

Like Filtered reported that over the past few months, an independent advisory board, working with the state, has released draft rules and regulations, focusing on psilocybin products and lab testsand how therapists or “facilitators” will be taught and trained to administer the drug to patients. No medical diagnosis will be required; instead, psilocybin therapy will theoretically be available to anyone who wants it.

Even the OHA has concluded that the requirements would create higher costs, effectively excluding low-income residents.

But here’s the problem: after studying these proposed rules, even the OHA concluded that testing and training requirements would create higher costs for businesses that would be passed on to patients, excluding low-income residents. That’s a major concern for advocates, who have been keen to make sure this landmark psilocybin initiative doesn’t become another big money grab, like legal cannabis.

That’s why one advocate pushed for an alternative path in this model of therapy, to allow spiritual or religious groups to hold psilocybin ceremonies. Jon Dennis, lawyer and host of the Podcast Eyes on Oregonsubmitted a proposal to the advisory board, titled “Entheogenic Practitioners Amendment.” He testified about it before the licensing and fairness subcommittees in February and March, and the subcommittees approved it on 3rd of March and March 18respectively.

The amendment would work by allowing spiritual or religious groups to be licensed as psilocybin “service centers,” giving them the unique privilege of holding group ceremonies. Dennis explained to Filtered that it would be limited to non-profit and cooperative organizations that work with spiritual communities. This could include traditional religious settings like Christian churches or Buddhist temples, or even “psilocybin churches”. like this one based in Kentucky.

“It creates more space for these psilocybin [organizations] exist without having to go underground.

These organizations could also train and ‘certify’ peers to support people under the influence of drugs. A licensed psilocybin facilitator would need to be on hand, but would not need to lead or be present at the ceremony itself, which could instead be led by a religious figure or shaman. The shaman would be allowed to consume psilocybin during the ceremony, which the regular therapy schedule would prohibit.

“It creates more space for these psilocybin [organizations] exist without having to be underground,” said Rebecca Martinez, executive director of the Alma Institute. Filtered. “It’s a harm reduction approach, and it’s an acknowledgment that these things happen and if we don’t allow it under Measure 109, it will still happen.”

Martinez — whose organization, which is currently seeking federal nonprofit status, is set to benefit financially as a training provider under Measure 109 — participated in the rulemaking process through his role on the training and equity sub-committees of the advisory board.

Dennis’ amendment would also allow outdoor group ceremonies, which certainly could be more stimulating than clinics. There would be fewer barriers to participation than in the therapy model, where patients would have to go through admission procedures and security screening each time they use psilocybin services. Participants under the religious amendment could attend as many ceremonies as they wished, only having to be checked once a year. They wouldn’t need to be members of a church or equivalent organization – they could just show up whenever they wanted.

Basically, they would be subject to less stringent, and therefore less expensive, lab testing requirements, which would reduce costs for participants.

Spiritual or religious entities could cultivate their own mushrooms on site and sell them to participants to use during the ceremony. While the product rule proposed as part of the therapeutic pathway requires that only cubensis mushrooms can be used among the many species of psilocybin, the amendment would allow organizations to grow any mushrooms they choose. Most importantly, they would be subject to less stringent, and therefore less costly, laboratory testing requirements, which would reduce costs for participants.

This all sounds good on paper. But Dennis predicts the biggest hurdle will be the first step – getting a “service center” license. It will likely be the most expensive license in the psilocybin program, he explained, because the state would likely charge these organizations high fees and impose restrictive real estate requirements.

But once that hurdle is overcome, he continued, the special privileges enjoyed by spiritual and religious organizations should make their psilocybin products and facilitation services much cheaper in the long run, and therefore more inclusive for people. low-income participants.

The hour of decision is approaching.

Will the Oregon Health Authority approve of this approach? So far he has not taken a position. Public support for the Amendment is, however, growing.

A online petition has nearly 500 favorable signatures. On April 13, the Amendment was highly publicized approval of the Dr. Bronner’s soap company, the largest backer of Measure 109. And last week, at second of two public hearings the OHA asked Oregon residents to comment on the proposed rules, Dennis said about three out of four comments supported the amendment.

Decision time is approaching – the Psilocybin Advisory Board can vote on the amendment at its May 25 meeting. And if he approves it, the OHA will have to weigh in.

Photograph of a Buddhist temple in Thailand by Eddie Blatt on Unsplash

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