Thomas and Sheri Eckert found a friend in David Bronner, CEO of the top-selling natural brand of soap. Dr. Bronner’s is matching up to $150,000 in contributions to the Eckert’s campaign to pry open the door for using “magic” mushrooms in Oregon.

The scientific name is Psilocybin mushrooms, a Schedule 1 drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act. That means they are illegal throughout the 50 states.

Psilocybin makes the Schedule 1 list because it does not have any medical use. And further, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) sees a high potential for abuse and dependency in Psilocybin.

These are the mushrooms that produce hallucinations, panic attacks, psychosis, nausea and vomiting, muscle weakness and lack of coordination, with overdoses resulting in psychosis or death.

People are still trying to make “magic” mushrooms legal, if only in small ways.

The first victory came last May in the first state to make recreational marijuana use legal. Denver voters approved by one percentage point Initiated Ordinance 301. It decriminalizes the possession and use of mushrooms that contain the hallucinogenic compound psilocybin.

“To the greatest extent possible,” the new ordinance says Denver shall “deprioritize” enforcement of personal possession of psilocybin mushrooms on people 21 and older. It further prohibits the City-County government from spending any money imposing criminal penalties for mushroom possession and use.

“Decriminalize Denver,” which successfully campaigned for I-301, said the intent was to put possession and use of psilocybin mushrooms as the lowest enforcement priority, not to legalize it outright.

And change may be in the wind.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has recognized Psilocybin as a “breakthrough therapy.” And John Hopkins University in Baltimore recommends it become a schedule IV drug for its effectiveness with depression and anxiety without being addictive.

But academics at John Hopkins and elsewhere say they don’t favor using mushrooms for recreation but within therapeutic sessions only.

And that’s the approach the Eckerts are taking in Oregon. The Portland-area psychotherapists formed the Oregon Psilocybin Society to support the Oregon Psilocybin Program Initiative.

Initiative 34, as it is known, hopes to earn a place on the Nov. 3, 2020, ballot.

If enacted, it would create a program for administering Psilocybin under the Oregon Health Act. It would then make “Psilocybin service” available once the client has gone through a preparation, administration, or integration “session.”

Participants would have to be 21 or over and would be required to go through “preliminary screening.”

The ballot title language says Oregon I-34 “allows manufacture, delivery, administration of psilocybin at supervised, licensed facilities (and) imposes tw0-year development period.”

Initiatives in Oregon must obtain 112,020 valid signatures by July 2, 2020, to qualify for the November general ballot. Oregon uses the random sample method to check on the validity of signatures.

The Eckerts filed I-32 on July 2, 2019, with 1,202 preliminary signatures, enough to trigger the Attorney General to write the ballot title. It was certified on Sept. 5, 2019.

It is not their first attempt. The Eckerts abandoned an initiative filed in 2018 that took a more discriminant approach. A California mushroom initiative also failed to make the 2018 ballot.

“A growing body of evidence demonstrates that Psilocybin -assisted therapy is safe and uniquely effective,” the Oregon Psilocybin Society says. “We think this novel approach could help alleviate the mental crisis here in Oregon by addressing costly epidemics like suicide, treatment-resistant depression and anxiety, PTSD, and addiction to drugs, alcohol, and nicotine.:

In providing financial support to the I-34 campaign, David Bronner said “Psilocybin therapy has the potential to offer relief for the increasing number of Oregonians struggling with depression, anxiety, and addiction who have found no relief from pharmaceuticals.

Under an enacted I-34, Sheri Eckert sees licensed providers and licensed mushroom producers will be able to “blaze trails in Oregon.”

Dr. Bronner’s has made other significant contributions in state campaigns, including those where the company sought to ban genetically engineered foods without warning labels. It is based in Vista, CA.

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