More Oregon counties want to ban psilocybin services, a review of microdosing, and remembering Ann Shulgin
Plus: Oregon! Oregon! Oregon!
Happy Friday, and welcome back to The Microdose. Here’s the news of the week:
The Latest in Oregon: More counties add psilocybin bans to the November ballot, and Deschutes County holds a psilocybin ban hearing.
Two weeks ago, The Microdose reported that Linn County commissioners voted to add a ballot measure in the November 2022 election that would ban psilocybin services, production, or manufacturing, essentially reversing Measure 109 within the county. Last week, commissioners in Umatilla County, in northeastern Oregon, voted unanimously to include a similar ballot measure, as did commissioners in the state’s southern Jackson County, and this week, the Hermiston City Council voted to do the same. Back in June, commissioners in Morrow County, Umatilla’s neighbors to the west, began discussing the issue and will also ask voters to weigh in on a similar ban. (For additional legal context on these ballot measures, read this recent post on the Harris Bricken Psychedelics Law Blog.)
It is worth keeping a close eye on Oregon as a bellwether. In particular, we’re watching how more rural and conservative counties and cities are handling the state-legalization of psilocybin services. On Wednesday, Deschutes County held a hearing to solicit feedback from the public on a psilocybin ban. (Note that Bend, the biggest city in the county, would not be subject to the county’s vote.)
A variety of speakers offered testimony: Navy SEALs, medical professionals who plan to offer psilocybin services, nurses, therapists in training, attorneys, and even an architect. Of the roughly two dozen speakers, all strongly opposed a county-wide psilocybin ban. One resident named Adam DeHeer invoked the county’s voting records in electing each commissioner and supporting Measure 109, which passed with 52.8% of the county’s vote. “There’s actually more support for this measure in this county than for any one of you as county commissioners,” DeHeer said.
Over the course of the session, it became clear that the commissioners’ main concern was that Oregon Psilocybin Services had not released its final rules and that the county may not have enough time to consider zoning and land use issues associated with new psilocybin businesses. Commissioners stated that it could take a year to update building codes or discuss conditional use permits. “There’s this fear that if we come up with time, place, and manner restrictions, then they’ll be challenged or land us in legal drama,” Commissioner Chang said.
Sam Chapman, campaign manager for Measure 109, joined the meeting from Portland; commissioners requested that he answer some of their questions about the Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board’s rulemaking process and timeline. While Oregon Health Services has spent the last 18 months debating psilocybin rules, county commissioners remain largely uninformed about how those rules might play out locally. The Deschutes County commissioners will continue to accept public comment through Monday, and they will vote next week whether to advance the proposal to add a psilocybin ban to the November ballot.
There has never been a more exciting – or bewildering – time in the world of psychedelics. Don’t miss a beat.
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Even more from Oregon: Oregon Psilocybin Services holds “public listening sessions.”
Oregon Psilocybin Services hosted a public listening session on Wednesday about operational requirements and security for psilocybin service businesses. Recent U.C. Berkeley graduate Ashley Reed attended on behalf of The Microdose, and reported that land use and zoning issues were a theme at that meeting as well. Attendees raised concerns that certain rules could limit accessibility of psilocybin services. For instance, a rabbi noted that a rule barring services from taking place within 1000 feet of a school means that religious institutions like his, which has a school inside the building, could not offer services, and that this might infringe on religious use exemptions.
Attendees also asked whether there would be a cap on the number of licenses granted, and some advocated for special rights to be granted to Indigenous healers. (This has been a point of discussion within the Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board for months, as the board considered and then ultimately rejected a framework for entheogenic practitioners, which aimed to protect the rights of people using psilocybin for religious and spiritual practices.)
On Thursday, a second “listening session” focused on facilitator conduct and preparation. At the second session, several attendees advocated for allowing some users to take drugs at home. People living in rural areas, or those receiving end-of-life treatment, might not be able to travel to service centers. Others raised concerns about affordability, another barrier to accessibility for both clients and practitioners. Speakers suggested having group therapy sessions to lower costs to clients, and asked about scholarships or other subsidies for practitioner training programs, which can cost thousands of dollars.
The third Zoom “listening session” will discuss client and product safety and is scheduled for Friday, July 15 at 10am PT.
A review of microdosing. Over the last few months, The Microdose has covered a handful of studies probing the effects of microdosing. Results have been mixed; while observational studies suggest a correlation between microdosing and improved mental health or mood, a recent double-blinded study with non-microdosing control groups suggest those effects might be negligible.
This week, Australian researchers Vince Polito and Paul Liknaitzky published a systematic review of microdosing studies in Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews. The duo reviewed 44 microdosing studies published between 1955 and 2021, and they found a huge range of methods, sample sizes, participants’ motives for microdosing, and reported outcomes. More than two-thirds of the studies included in the review were published after 2018, demonstrating the recent surge of interest in research on microdosing.
Polito and Liknaitzky identified a few major themes across these studies. First, they found that microdosing was often associated with improved mood and lower depression scores, but that results related to anxiety and stress were varied: while some studies found microdosing decreased anxiety or stress, others found increases in those measures. However, they write, “some of these results need to be treated with caution,” as some of the effects they identified “may be attributable to substantial psychotherapeutic support and expectancy effects associated with the administration of the microdose.” Placebo effects might also partially drive results, the authors say, but some studies show dose-dependent changes, suggesting the placebo effect isn’t doing all the work.
In the studies reviewed, participants could often tell they were tripping. In one paper, “over 70% of microdosers in that study report[ed] that they sometimes felt like they were ‘mildly tripping,’ and a similar proportion report[ed] unusually vivid dreams.” This raises the question of what constitutes a microdose; generally, researchers have defined a microdose as an amount participants can’t detect, but if participants can tell they’ve been given a dose, this could influence their expectations and affect results.
Remembering Ann Shulgin. Psychedelics pioneer Ann Shulgin has died at the age of 91. Shulgin and her husband, Alexander (Sasha) Shulgin, were known for championing MDMA as a tool for mental health treatment, and for documenting their experiences with psychedelics in two books: PiHKAL: A Chemical Love Story, published in 1991, and TiHKAL: The Continuation, published in 1997. The Associated Press published an obituary, Lucid News published another, and David Presti, a UC Berkeley neurobiologist who is also affiliated with the U.C. Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics, wrote a heartfelt tribute to Shulgin, detailing her life’s work and relationship with Sasha. The two “were equals in their relationship and muses for one another,” writes Presti (they were married by a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration official!) “She was surrounded by a circle of love and care to the hours of her last breath and beyond,” Presti writes.
On his radio show Blonded Radio, musician Frank Ocean talks with James Fadiman, “the Father of microdosing,” about LSD.
On July 22, the Alma Institute is holding a fundraising event to support Historias y Memorias Mazateca, an ethnographic project that aims to preserve the cultural heritage of the Mazatec people. The Mazatec have long used mushrooms that contain psilocybin in rituals and for healing, and the Western psychedelics world was propelled forward by knowledge white researchers learned from them. (Read this article published in ACS Pharmacology & Translational Science for more on the history of the Mazatec and how white colonists betrayed them.)
Psychedelic Spotlight writes about Jessica Thornton, an Indiana woman who faces potential jail time for possessing psilocybin and marijuana. (Her sentencing is scheduled for August 1.)
The Wall Street Journal interviews venture capitalist Brom Rector about his psychedelic investment strategy and industry predictions.
Scientific American covers Erinn Baldeschwiler’s fight to access end-of-life psilocybin-assisted therapy through Right To Try laws.
The U.C. Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics has launched a new website with explainers on the basics of psychedelic drugs, law and politics, clinical trials and psychedelic-assisted therapy.
Time interviews Michael Pollan about How To Change Your Mind, the new Netflix series adapted from Pollan’s 2018 bestseller, and what’s changed in the psychedelics world between the release of his book and the new series.
You’re all caught up! Have a great weekend. Stay tuned on Monday for a new issue of 5 Questions.
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Once again, as with cannabis, let's not have advocates and zealots, even in the medical community, get ahead of adequate evidenced based medicine, input from citizen-advisors in the public health and the legal fields, and respected practitioners in the mental health field, even at the cost of postponing the will of the people in fair and representative democratic referendums.