Gov. Kate Brown has appointed the members of a new state advisory panel that will guide Oregon’s work in implementing Measure 109, which legalized psilocybin for therapeutic purposes.
The governor is required by state law to make the panel appointments following the passage of Measure 109 in November. The measure legalizes psychedelic mushrooms as a treatment for mental health issues. The measure gives the Oregon Health Authority two years to set up a system to regulate the product, which providers can only dispense in clinical settings without retail sales.
Oregon is the first state to venture down this path.
“Like many, I was initially skeptical when I first heard of Measure 109,” Brown said in a statement released Tuesday. “But if we can help people suffering from PTSD, depression, trauma and addiction––including veterans, cancer patients, and others––supervised psilocybin therapy is a treatment worthy of further consideration.”
Brown thanked the experts in medicine and treatment who are serving and said Oregon will put science and equity front and center for all, including the state’s Black, indigenous, tribal and communities of color.
The board includes professionals with expertise in addiction medicine, fungal biology, internal medicine, mental health and public health.
The health authority, which also oversees medical and recreational marijuana, will oversee and regulate the new program. The law requires a regulatory framework to provide psilocybin-assisted therapy for adults 21 and older. Measure 109 allows the regulated manufacture and administration of psychedelic mushrooms in clinical settings to treat mental health conditions like depression and post-traumatic stress. Psilocybin, which has been researched for use in treating mental health issues, is classified as an illegal Schedule I drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act.
The measure and planning comes amid a mental health crisis for Oregon. An estimated one in five Oregonians suffer from a mental health condition.
The committee’s makeup includes two faculty members at Oregon Health & Sciences University’s School of Medicine: Dr. Todd Korthuis, a professor of general internal medicine and geriatrics; and Dr. Atheir Abbas, assistant professor of behavioral neuroscience and psychiatry in the OHSU School of Medicine.
“Measure 109, and the appointment of the Psilocybin Advisory Board, represent a unique opportunity to carefully evaluate the therapeutic role of psilocybin in clinical practice,” Korthuis said in a statement. “Much like myself, health care providers and researchers worldwide are eager for the answers this board can provide to help develop a framework for more accessible and effective therapies to treat serious illness.”
Abbas echoed that.
"I am proud that Oregon continues to be a leader in evidence-based approaches to help improve the health and well-being of its communities, and look forward to working with the other highly-qualified members of the board to ensure that science guides our implementation of Measure 109," Abbas said.
Brown also found an expert in mushrooms, Jessie Uehling, an assistant professor of fungal biology at Oregon State University. Uehling said she looks forward to putting that knowledge to use to help develop best practices to “monitor, evaluate and quantify the Psilocybin and mushroom production industries over time.”
Other members include Barb Hansen, chief executive officer of the Oregon Hospice and Palliative Care Association; Dr. Rachel Knox, co-founder for the Cannabis Health Equity Movement and chair of the Association for Cannabis Health Equity and Medicine; and Tom Eckert, chief petitioner for Measure 109.
Eckert and his late wife, Sheri Eckert, of Portland, led the charge for the ballot measure and saw it pass before she died in December in her sleep.
"The governor’s appointment of the Psilocybin Advisory Board today represents a crucial first step toward implementing the nation’s first statewide psilocybin services program," said Eckert. "This is an impressive board poised to do groundbreaking work. My late wife Sheri and I had always envisioned this – an empowered board of leading experts, representing a variety of relevant disciplines, advising the Oregon Health Authority on psilocybin safety, practice, training, and access standards. I am filled with pride and appreciation for all the Oregon voters out there who made this a reality."
Other board members include: public health director designee, Andre Ourso of the health authority; epidemiologist Dr. Tom Jeanne of the Oregon Health Authority; Barb Hansen representing the Oregon Health Policy Board; Ali Hamade of the Oregon Health Authority; Dr. Sarah Present, Clackamas County health officer; mental health advocate Kevin Fitts of Portland, psychologist Dr. Dr. Kimberley Golletz of Corvallis; Mason Marks of Portland, an academic researcher; harm reduction specialist Angela Carter of Portland; Nathan Rix of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission; David Hart with the Oregon Department of Justice; and Stephanie Barss of Bend, representing the public.