According to Willamette Weekly, nearly three years after voters in the state approved a ballot measure to legalize it, “Oregon Psilocybin Services is nowhere near paying its own way,” despite promises from its backers that “Oregonians would get access to a life-changing compound in a safe, legal setting, and, after a two-year startup period, it wouldn’t cost taxpayers a dime.”

The outlet noted that advocates of the 2020 ballot proposal, Measure 109, asserted that the licensing fees paid “by mushroom growers, testing labs, trip facilitators and service centers would cover the costs of a new bureaucracy within the Oregon Health Authority.”

That has been far from the case.

“Fee revenue is anemic because too few people are seeking the various licenses (“Stuffed Mushrooms,” WW, May 24). Just four manufacturers, two testing labs, and eight service centers have been licensed. All three types of entities pay a one-time fee of $500 and then $10,000 a year to operate. Many more facilitators have been approved (88), but they pay only $150 up front and then $2,000 annually,” Willamette Weekly reported in a story published on Wednesday. 

“So far this year, Psilocybin Services has raised just $318,419 in fees, OHA says. That’s in line with estimates by WW. Tallying the number of permits issued and multiplying by all the fees, we came up with a total of $342,425 since the program began licensing participants on Jan. 2.”

“Backers of Measure 109 said the program would cost far more—$3.1 million a year—to run. To fill at least part of that gap, Oregon lawmakers appropriated $3.1 million from the taxpayer-supported general fund for the two-year period that started July 1. OHA is betting that shroom fee revenue will pick up as the biennium proceeds, making up the rest of the shortfall,” the outlet continued.

Measure 109 passed in 2020 by a fairly narrow vote, with 50% of Oregon voters approving and 44% voting against. It made Oregon the first state in the country to legalize psilocybin. 

In the spring, Oregon Psilocybin Services, a regulatory arm of the Oregon Health Authority, announced that it had awarded the state’s first license for a psilocybin service center in Eugene. 

Oregon Psilocybin Services (OPS) Section Manager Angie Allbee called it “a historic moment as psilocybin services will soon become available in Oregon, and we appreciate the strong commitment to client safety and access as service center doors prepare to open.” 

At the time of the announcement, Oregon Psilocybin Services offered a refresher on how the program will work.

“Under the statewide model, clients 21 years of age or older may access psilocybin services. While they won’t need prescriptions or referrals from healthcare providers, clients must first complete a preparation session with a licensed facilitator. If they meet the criteria to move forward, they may participate in an administration session at a licensed service center, where they may consume psilocybin products in the presence of a trained and licensed facilitator,” the agency explained. “Afterwards, clients may choose to join optional integration sessions, which offer opportunities to be connected to community resources and peer support networks for additional support. Once licensed, service centers can employ and/or contract with licensed facilitators who are trained in providing preparation, administration, and integration sessions to clients. Service centers will sell psilocybin products that were produced by licensed manufacturers and tested by licensed laboratories. To date, OPS has issued three manufacturer licenses, one laboratory license, five facilitator licenses, and 84 worker permits. OPS expects to issue more licenses and worker permits in the coming months.”

The state finalized the rules for the psilocybin program at the end of last year.

Albee and André Ourso, the administrator of the Center for Health Protection in Oregon, said at the time that Oregon Psilocybin Services “received over 200 written comments and six hours of comments shared in the public hearings during the November 2022 public comment period.”

“These comments helped to further refine and improve the rules, which have now been adopted as final. The final rules are a starting place for the nation’s first regulatory framework for psilocybin services, and we will continue to evaluate and evolve this work as we move into the future,” they said.

In response to this week’s report by Willamette Weekly, Oregon Health Authority spokesman Afiq Hisham urged patience.

“It takes time to build a new section in state government and to become 100% fee-based, specifically because ORS 475A is the nation’s first regulatory framework for psilocybin services and required an intensive two-year development period,” Hisham told Willamette Weekly.

 A tough new report sheds light on how Oregon’s groundbreaking legal psilocybin program has fallen massively short of its stated promises.
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