Oregon Psilocybin: Licensing Subcommittee Update

Time for another Oregon psilocybin licensing update. In this post we will explain what the Licensing Subcommittee covered in its recent meeting on March 3, 2022.

Licensing Subcommittee schedule and timelines

The Licensing Subcommittee meets every month to develop licensing requirements for psilocybin businesses and professionals. So far, it has developed recommendations regarding informed consent documents, professional codes of conduct, and licensing requirements for psilocybin facilitators. We have covered some of these topics in previous updates, which you can find here.

Once the Licensing Subcommittee decides on a relevant issue, it offers a recommendation the greater Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board (“Board”). These recommendations are not binding in any sense, and they are subject to change. The Board will eventually submit its own regulation recommendations to the Oregon Health Authority (“OHA”) in June 2022.

March Licensing Subcommittee updates

The Licensing Subcommittee’s March 3 meeting covered: spiritual and religious psilocybin use, training programs, access for people with disabilities, and client access to outdoor and common areas.

Special endorsement for spiritual and religious organizations

The meeting began with a discussion about an exemption for spiritual and religious organizations who use psilocybin. As discussed in a previous post, several spiritual and religious organizations use psilocybin mushrooms in religious ceremonies. The Licensing Subcommittee endeavors to recommend regulations to incorporate these religious ceremonies under Measure 109.

However, Measure 109 has language that may infringe on spiritual and religious practices unrelated to psilocybin. Churches such as the Sacred Garden Community use other plants and fungi for ceremonies, not just psilocybin. Yet, 109 only allows for service centers to have psilocybin on the premises. Thus, if a church like the Sacred Garden Community wishes to operate as a service center under 109, it would have to abandon these other practices or risk penalization.

To prevent this, the Licensing Subcommittee discussed a special endorsement for spiritual and religious organizations that would allow them to house other plants and fungi while operating under 109. This endorsement would create an exemption to the “psilocybin-only” language of 109. The Licensing Subcommittee voted to recommend this endorsement to the Board.

Document: Privileges and Duties of Entheogenic Practitioners

The Licensing Subcommittee then discussed regulations to reconcile Measure 109, a primarily secular law, with spiritual and religious organizations. Such a reconciliation is necessary, according to the Licensing Subcommittee, because the nature of psilocybin has a long history of spiritual and sacred contexts. Measure 109, on the other hand, is cast in a western medical/clinical paradigm, and psilocybin does not easily fit into this paradigm. Jon Dennis helped the Licensing Subcommittee navigate this reconciliation.

Dennis was a guest speaker at the meeting on February 3, and he discussed creating a regulatory framework for spiritual and religious practices. Dennis prepared a document outlining this framework, titled “Privileges and Duties of Entheogenic Practitioners.”

An entheogenic practitioner is a person who works with substances, such as psilocybin, in a spiritual or sacred context. This proposed regulatory framework is essentially a “scope of practice” for spiritual and religious psilocybin practices in accordance with 109. You can view the document here.

The Licensing Subcommittee debated whether this document should be adopted. Some members voiced concern that only extending privileges to entheogenic practitioners may be too narrow. Yet others felt this extension does not limit future extensions. Further, the Licensing Subcommittee felt this document is an important step towards reconciling Measure 109 and the spiritual nature of psilocybin.

The Licensing Subcommittee voted to adopt this document and recommend it to the Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board.

Training programs

One of the goals of Measure 109 is to make psilocybin services a safe, accessible, and affordable option for all persons 21 years of age and older.

As Oregon approaches the dawn of the psilocybin industry, corporations and wealthy investors are preparing to establish themselves in the market. This plays out in unlikely environments, such as training programs. To be licensed for psilocybin services, a person must complete the required core training, practicum training, and pass a facilitator examination.

Robust organizations can afford comprehensive training programs that offer all the training required for licensure. Such programs are costly and require substantial investment resources. Small businesses simply can not comprehensive training programs at this time.

If OHA only approves comprehensive training programs, wealthy established training programs outside of Oregon would populate the market. Meanwhile, Oregonians who wish to start their own training programs would have the cards stacked against them.

Hence, the Subcommittee voted to recommend the OHA approve partial training programs, as well as comprehensive training programs.

“Partial” training programs involve separate modules of the required training. For instance, a partial training program could teach students how psilocybin is cultivated, the history of psilocybin uses, or safety precautions. Partial training programs may be approved to offer specific core training to students while not providing all core training. However, partial training programs must clearly identify to prospective students that they to not provide all required core training.

Relatedly, the Subcommittee discussed what substances may be used by training programs. Practicum training programs will teach prospective psilocybin facilitators about the effects psilocybin has on a clients. Thus, part of the program will likely include observing a person actually consuming psilocybin.

The OHA will have the authority to accept or deny which programs students can use for licensure. However, if the OHA only approves programs that use actual psilocybin, it could discriminate against small businesses.

The Subcommittee acknowledged:

“Administering psilocybin during practicum training requires training programs to either become licensed psilocybin service centers or to have close ties with a licensed service center. Therefore, requiring psilocybin to be administered during practicum training unless special condition apply privileges wealthy established training programs who already have those relationships.”

Small businesses and Oregon start-ups hoping to offer practicum training will not have immediate access to psilocybin like wealthy corporations. Yet, these businesses could use other substances as a placeholder for psilocybin– substances that induce a non-ordinary state of consciousness similar to what psilocybin would induce. For example, ketamine is a medication that produces hallucinogenic effects. Compared to psilocybin, it is easily available and can be prescribed by a doctor.  Further, cannabis is a psychedelic substance with therapy uses similar to psilocybin.

A practicum training program without immediate access to psilocybin should be able to use substances like ketamine and cannabis to teach students about effects similar to psilocybin. The Subcommittee voted to recommend the OHA accept practicum training programs that use other substances, as well as programs that use psilocybin. The programs must use such substances in accordance with the governing laws.

Other recommendations

The Subcommittee also voted on access for people with disabilities and areas for clients to experience psilocybin. These matters were straightforward, and the Subcommittee quickly agreed on both.

First, some prospective clients may not be able to consume psilocybin as an edible. The Subcommittee will recommend there be several options for consuming psilocybin, such as sublingual strips or beverages. Access to psilocybin should not be limited by consumption abilities.

Second, the Subcommittee will recommend clients experiencing psilocybin be allowed to go outside of service center, as well as a common area, so long as clients remain on the premises.

Experiencing psilocybin outdoors can be an essential part of treatment. Indeed, according to a recent article in Outside Magazine “[m]any studies have shown that a stronger connection to nature benefits mental health by improving mood, strengthening cognitive function, and alleviating depression.”

While this recommendation is implicit, and likely obvious, due to previous recommendations, the Subcommittee wanted to make an explicit recommendation to ensure this matter is not overlooked.

Future meetings

At this time, there are no future meetings scheduled for the Licensing Subcommittee. However, the full Board will meet on March 23, 2022. It will hear a presentation from the Oregon Government Ethics Commission. Members of the public are welcome to attend, and the zoom link is located here.