Think Out Loud

Majority of Oregon counties vote against psilocybin therapy

By Gemma DiCarlo (OPB)
Nov. 13, 2022 2 p.m.

Broadcast: Monday, Nov. 14

FILE - In this Aug. 3, 2007, file photo, psilocybin mushrooms are seen in a grow room at the Procare farm in Hazerswoude, central Netherlands. Twenty-five of Oregon's 36 counties recently voted against allowing psilocybin therapy. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)

FILE - In this Aug. 3, 2007, file photo, psilocybin mushrooms are seen in a grow room at the Procare farm in Hazerswoude, central Netherlands. Twenty-five of Oregon's 36 counties recently voted against allowing psilocybin therapy. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)

Peter Dejong / AP


Oregonians voted in 2020 to legalize psilocybin therapy in supervised facilities. The hallucinogenic drug has gained traction in recent years as a viable treatment for PTSD, severe depression and substance use disorder. But the majority of the state’s 36 counties have reservations about the therapy — 25 counties voted against allowing psilocybin use last week, along with several municipalities. Jefferson Public Radio reporter Jane Vaughan joins us to talk about those bans and what they could mean for the future of psilocybin in Oregon.

This transcript was created by a computer and edited by a volunteer.

Dave Miller: From the Gert Boyle studio at OPB, this is Think Out Loud. I’m Dave Miller. Two years ago Oregonians made US history. They voted to legalize the use of psilocybin in supervised facilities. The mushroom derived hallucinogenic drug has showed promise in recent years as a treatment for PTSD, severe depression, and substance use disorder. But last week, voters in 25 of the state’s 36 counties voted to ban supervised psilocybin use, and even more cities did the same. Jefferson Public Radio reporter Jane Vaughan has been tracking this issue. She joins us now to talk about these bans and what they could mean for the future of psilocybin in Oregon. Welcome to Think Out Loud.

Jane Vaughan: Thanks for having me.

Miller: So I mentioned that a majority of Oregonians voted to legalize the supervised use of psilocybin two years ago. It was about 55% of the vote. What did the results look like though when you zoomed in more carefully?

Vaughan: In 2020, like you said, it was 55%, nearly 56% of the vote. But I will say that even in 2020, the majority of the state’s counties opposed it. So it wasn’t a sweep across the state. It was largely driven by urban areas and the more populous northwestern counties of the state. So even in 2020, the majority of the state’s counties opposed having psilocybin.

Miller: Can you just remind us briefly what voters approved two years ago?

Vaughan: It’s the use of psilocybin, which as you said, is a naturally occurring psychedelic drug. It’s found in mushrooms, sometimes called magic mushrooms, that has a hallucinogenic effect. And so voters approved the use of psilocybin in licensed service centers. It’s not for use recreationally, you can’t just buy it and go home and take it. It has to be in a licensed service center. You have to be 21 or older to use it. And then you would be supervised by a licensed professional, basically. So you’d have to go through pre-screening, and then undergo your journey as you’re supervised by a professional. You undergo therapy. It’s meant to be a therapeutic outpatient service for people who need it.

Miller: In how many municipalities and counties was a ban of this supervised use on the ballot in this most recent election?

Vaughan: Last Tuesday, it was on the ballot in 27 of the state’s 36 counties. And then at least 100 municipalities. I haven’t gone through and counted all of them, but it was over 100 municipalities.

Miller: And overall, what were the results of those votes?

Vaughan: People really did not like having psilocybin in their towns and in their counties, which again, is maybe similar to 2020, but seemed pretty dramatic. Like I said, 27 counties had it on the ballot this year, and 25 of those voted against allowing psilocybin in their county. So of those 27, only Jackson and Deschutes were in favor of having psilocybin in the county. And four counties actually switched, they were in favor of having psilocybin in 2020, and then now they switched to being against allowing psilocybin in their county. Clatsop, Tillamook, Clackamas, and Curry were in favor in 2020, and now have decided they’d rather not have psilocybin in their county.

So most of the counties were against it. It’s worth noting that there were nine counties that did not have psilocybin on their ballot, and they were all in favor of allowing it in 2020. Lane, Multnomah, Washington, Columbia, were all in favor of it in 2020, and then didn’t vote on it again. So if you’re keeping a tally, that’s 11 counties in the state that are in favor of allowing it, and then 25 that are against having psilocybin in the county.

And then on the municipality level, again, there were over 100. I have not looked up every single one. But many of them also voted to ban the use of psilocybin within the municipality as well.

Miller: What kinds of arguments did you see against the supervised use of psilocybin?

Vaughan: People had a lot of arguments. Number one, psilocybin is still considered a schedule one drug by the federal government, meaning it has no you no currently accepted medical use and there’s a high potential for abuse. A lot of people are just against the use of psychedelic drugs or hard drugs in general.


Some people were concerned and compared it to the rollout of marijuana, which as we know, has had some issues. Some people were kind of jaded, saying “it’s gonna happen again, we’re gonna have a lot of problems.”

And then some people just wanted more time to consider the issue, to look at restrictions, to make up the rules. They kind of wanted a little pause to wait and see how this would actually work. There were actually three counties that did not enact a permanent ban. It’s just a two year ban. They’re hoping to get some more information, take a pause and then could always allow psilocybin in the future.

Miller: How much did the arguments against psilocybin reference Measure 110, which was much more far reaching, also passed by voters in 2020, decriminalizing all drugs.

Vaughan: People referenced it a little bit. It wasn’t an argument I heard super commonly, but occasionally some people would bring it up. Like I said, there are people who were just concerned about hard drugs in general, and they don’t want people to be on psilocybin in their communities, whether or not they’re in a supervised facility. So that’s definitely something that people were thinking about.

Miller: It does make me wonder what it means to outlaw the highly controlled and supervised use of psilocybin in specific cities or counties when Measure 110 is still in the books decriminalizing all drugs throughout Oregon.

Vaughan: It gets kind of tricky. There’s a difference between decriminalization and legalization. So even if it’s not criminalized, I don’t know necessarily that it’s legal to set up service centers. I’m not super well versed on that specifically.

But it definitely gets tricky. And especially if you’re looking at the county versus municipality level. If a municipality votes to allow it versus a county doesn’t, or vice versa, where is it allowed in the municipality and not in the county, or vice versa? I know in Tillamook, Wheeler voted to approve the use of psilocybin, but the county banned it. So there’s kind of some complicating factors of where exactly it will be allowed, in the unincorporated areas of the county, within the municipalities and then breaking it down further to decriminalization versus legalization.

Miller: You talked about the arguments that you saw against the supervised use of psilocybin, arguments that obviously were successful in more than two dozen counties and something like 100 municipalities? But what about the flip side? What are the arguments in favor of the therapeutic use of this drug?

Vaughan: Basically like you said, it’s therapy. The FDA has called psilocybin a breakthrough therapy for treating severe depression. And there’s been a lot of studies and data that showed that it’s really effective at treating OCD, PTSD, substance misuse. It’s been really effective also in terms of end of life anxiety for terminally ill patients, people who are sort of facing their own mortality, it’s been very soothing for some people. So basically, it’s being approached as a therapy treatment for a lot of mental health issues.

There are a lot of veterans groups who are in favor of it. There’s been a lot of veterans who have spoken out about their own use of psilocybin, and how it’s helped them with PTSD and substance misuse. And some of them say they’ve tried a bunch of other medications or other therapies, and nothing has worked except for psilocybin. So there have definitely been people that say it’s helped cure their PTSD, substance misuse, depression, anxiety, things like that.

Miller: Did you hear from any of these people, people in rural areas, veterans or otherwise, who want this kind of licensed therapy to exist in Oregon, where their fellow voters have said no?

Vaughan: Oh yeah, I’ve not spoken with a veteran who has been against it. And I think that’s an important point to raise about having it in the rural areas, because a lot of people that I’ve spoken with have talked about the obvious therapeutic benefits of being in nature. So a lot of people want to open up a service center in a rural area and have it be more like a retreat, where you’re out in nature, it’s quiet, there’s not a bunch of cars and loud noise, it’s much more therapeutic. A veteran that I spoke with had flown down to Mexico for a psilocybin retreat, and that was similarly in a rural area, and he said it was just the most soothing, therapeutic, it’s quiet, it’s beautiful. That sort of lends an extra element to the therapy, so I think a lot of people trying to break into this industry would like to have it in the more rural areas for that sort of quiet soothing aspect.

It sort of remains to be seen whether that will happen. I know that Jackson County has already begun looking at time, place, and manner restrictions, meaning where these service centers will actually be allowed. So they’re kind of looking at the zoning and things like that. And we’re talking about having it in commercial zones, because it is a business. A lot of people who spoke at that meeting were talking about wanting it in the rural zones for the reasons that I’ve just mentioned. So it sort of remains to be seen whether it will be more in the urban commercial areas, or in the more rural zones, which I think is where a lot of the potential business owners would like to have their retreats.

Miller: And just briefly, can you give us a sense for the timeline here? When will these licensed service centers be up and running?

Vaughan: I’m not sure when they’ll be up and running. I know the Oregon Health Authority is still working on guidelines regulating manufacturing and sale, and basically outlining all the rules for psilocybin services. And then they will start accepting applications for service center licenses on January 2nd. I’m not sure how long the process is after that, but January 2nd you can apply, and then the rollout will begin from there.

Miller: Jane Vaughan, thanks very much.

Vaughan: Thank you.

Miller: Jane Vaughan is a reporter at Jefferson Public Radio. She joined us to talk about the new city and county level bans of the supervised use of psilocybin. Voters in 25 Oregon counties and something like 100 cities approved these bans in last week’s election.

Contact “Think Out Loud®”

If you’d like to comment on any of the topics in this show, or suggest a topic of your own, please get in touch with us on Facebook or Twitter, send an email to, or you can leave a voicemail for us at 503-293-1983. The call-in phone number during the noon hour is 888-665-5865.