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State of California introduces bill to legalize facilitated psilocybin sessions

DAMASCUS, Oregon –

At a wooded retreat center in Oregon, about 30 men and women sit or lie down, masks covering their eyes and listening to serene music.

They are among the first generation of students trained to support patients who trip on psilocybin, as Oregon prepares to become the first US state to offer controlled use of the psychedelic mushroom to the public.

Scheduled to be available to the public in mid to late 2023, the program charts a potential path for other states. Oregon voters approved Ballot Measure 109 on psilocybin by an 11% margin in 2020.

In November, Colorado voters also passed a ballot measure allowing the regulated use of “magic mushrooms” beginning in 2024. On December 16, California State Senator Scott Wiener of San Francisco introduced a bill to legalize psilocybin and other psychedelics.

“Psychedelics help people recover from trauma, depression and addiction,” Wiener tweeted. “Why are they still illegal in California? »

InnerTrek, a Portland-based company, is currently training about 100 students, divided into three groups, to become licensed “facilitators” who will create a safe space for dosing sessions and be a reassuring, yet non-intrusive, presence. Some classes of the six-month, US$7,900 course are online, but others take place in person, near Portland in a building resembling a mountain lodge with Tibetan prayer flags flapping in the breeze at proximity.

Because psilocybin use is still illegal, the only mushrooms at the training center were shitake mushrooms served in miso soup at lunch.

Trainer Gina Gratza told students that the space, or “vessel,” for a dosing session at an approved center should include a couch or mats for clients to sit or lie on, a mask to eyes, comfort items like a blanket and stuffed animals, a sketchbook, crayons, and a vomit bucket. A session usually lasts at least six hours.

Music is an important part of the experience and should be available, from speakers or headphones. (Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research in Baltimore have developed a playlist that “seeks to express the sweeping arc of the typical mid- or high-dose psilocybin session.”)

“You are here to support safe passage and hold the container that powers a release and deployment,” Gratza told the students. “Be aware of how you speak and what the energy of what you emit can convey.”

Trainers emphasized that those taking psilocybin should have the freedom to explore any emotions that arise during their inner journeys. They should not be consoled if they cry, for example. Expressing anger is fine, but it must be agreed beforehand that there will be no throwing of objects or beatings.

“We don’t guide,” Gratza said. “Let your participants’ experiences unfold. Use words sparingly. Let participants come to their own ideas and conclusions.” Tom Eckert, the architect of Ballot Measure 109, is now advancing him as InnerTrek’s program director. He said it’s not about people “getting high” for fun, it’s about using psilocybin to improve lives.

Researchers believe that psilocybin alters the way the brain organizes itself, making it easier for a user to adopt new attitudes and helping overcome depression, PTSD, and other issues.

“What we offer here in Oregon is a platform for psilocybin services,” Eckert said in an interview. “And service means a sequence of sessions in which a psilocybin experience is contextualized. So there’s preparation before and integration after. It’s a therapeutic sequence.”

Oregon pioneered the regulated use of psychedelic mushrooms in the United States, but psilocybin, peyote and other hallucinogenic substances have been used by indigenous peoples in Mexico and Central America to induce states of altered consciousness in healing rituals and religious ceremonies since pre-Columbian times. .

Its cultivation and use is legal in a handful of other countries, including Jamaica, where some high-end mushroom resorts have sprung up. A program run by the Heroic Hearts Project, a veterans services organization, brings military veterans with PTSD and athletes who have suffered trauma to the jungles of Peru for restorative sessions with ayahuasca, an herbal psychedelic. of plants.

In October, the Canadian province of Alberta announced the first provincial regulation for psychedelic-assisted therapy. The new regulations, which come into effect in January, require a psychiatrist to oversee any treatment, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Psilocybin remains illegal in the rest of Canada, but that hasn’t stopped stores in Vancouver, BC from openly selling magic mushrooms. Police are not intervening and are instead targeting violent criminal organizations that produce and traffic in harmful opioids, CBC reported.

A store in Portland called Shroom House also reportedly sold psilocybin openly until police halted operation on December 8 and arrested the store’s owner and manager.

In the last election, several rural Oregon counties opted out of allowing psilocybin services to unincorporated areas within their borders, although several towns in those counties remained. Highly populated counties with the state’s largest cities – Portland, Eugene and Bend – also did not withdraw, although the county containing the capital Salem did.

The Oregon Psychiatric Physicians Association and the American Psychiatric Association opposed Measure 109, saying it “is unsafe and makes misleading promises to Oregonians struggling with mental illness.” You don’t have to be a medical professional to get a facilitator’s license, they pointed out.

Eckert, however, said the status quo was not working.

“We need a revolution in mental health care,” Eckert said. “The way we’re working with mental health right now just isn’t good enough, and we’re seeing it in the results. We have something of a mental health crisis here in Oregon and beyond.

“I’m not trying to throw away the existing structure,” he added. “There is definitely value there, but something is clearly missing.”

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