Group pushes to legalize psychedelic mushrooms in Oregon

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A group is looking for voters to weigh in on whether Oregon would be the first in the nation to legalize psilocybin mushrooms.

Psilocybin is the compound found in some types of mushrooms that has a hallucinogenic effect on users.

"It enhances creativity, it enhances openness," said Tom Eckhert, who along with his wife, Cheri, form the duo that leads the Oregon Psilocybin Society.

The Eckherts have been working for more than two years on their legalization effort. They anticipate that Oregonians will get to vote on whether to legalize psilocybin in the 2020 election.

Their measure doesn't call for recreational use to be allowed, instead saying it would be highly regulated, and for people 21 years or older with specific medical needs.

"Supervised sessions, kind of a sequence of sessions including assessment and preparation and then the psychedelic administration session," Tom Eckhert said.

"We envision a very regulated production center that the state keeps track of inventory and things of that nature, so we know that it's not getting out where it shouldn't be getting out to," Cheri Eckhert said.

The measure would have the state create a board that would lay out the rules and regulations within a year of voters approving the legalization.

Research from universities, such as Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, have shown psilocybin can help people experiencing depression.

Dr. Zane Horowitz, the medical director at the Oregon Poison Center, says those studies are far from concrete.

"Not even 100 people have been treated in the entire United States," Dr. Horowitz said. "We are so preliminary in the research that it's hard to say that this will ever come to fruition as a pharmaceutical agent."

Dr. Horowitz says good research takes time, and that as a doctor he wouldn't feel comfortable administering the drug until he sees FDA approval.

So how prevalent are psilocybin mushrooms in Oregon?

The Oregon Poison Center says it has about 30 cases a year of people having problems with psychedelic mushrooms.

The Washington County Sheriff's Office says it's very rare for deputies to pull over drivers that are impaired by the drug.

A drug recognition officer tells KATU News that drivers who are on 'shrooms are very easy to identify because of their dilated pupils, and that they'll often be hallucinating and seeing things on the road that do not exist.

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