Oregon is closer to magic mushroom therapy, but has a setback Story-level
SALEM, Ore. — Oregon is taking a big step Friday on its path to pioneering legalized psilocybin therapy with the graduation of the first students trained to accompany patients who smoke psychedelic mushrooms, though a company bankruptcy leaves another group adrift in the same way.
The graduation ceremony for 35 students was held Friday night by InnerTrek, a Portland firm, at a wooded retirement center. About 70 more will graduate Saturday and Sunday in ceremonies pledging to do no harm.
“Facilitator training is at the heart of the nation’s first statewide psilocybin therapy and wellness program and is critical to the success of the Oregon model that we are pioneering here,” said Tom Eckert, program director at InnerTrek and architect of the 2020 ballot measure that legalized the Oregon program.
Students must pass a final exam to receive InnerTrek certificates. They then take a test administered by the Oregon Health Authority to receive their facilitator licenses.
“Graduation of the first cohort of students from approved psilocybin facilitator training programs is an important milestone for Oregon,” said Angie Allbee, manager of the state health authority’s psilocybin services section. “We congratulate Oregon’s future facilitators and the training programs they graduate from on this incredible and historic moment in psilocybin history.”
The health authority reported Friday that it has received 191 applications for licenses and work permits so far, including licenses for psilocybin manufacturers and service centers where the psychedelic substance would be consumed and tested.
Allbee said he hopes students will submit license applications soon, “putting us closer to opening the service center doors in 2023.”
Some classes in InnerTrek’s $7,900, six-month course were held online, but others were held in person, in a building near Portland that resembles a mountain lodge.
The students were told that a dosing session at a licensed center should include a couch or mats for clients to sit on or lie on, an eye mask, comfort items such as a blanket and stuffed animals, a notepad, drawing, pencils and a bucket to vomit. A session usually lasts at least six hours, often with music. The trainers emphasized that clients of facilitators should be given the freedom to explore whatever emotions arise during their inner journeys.
“We’re not leading,” coach Gina Gratza told students at a training session in December. “Let the experiences of your participants unfold. Use words sparingly. Let the participants come to their own views and conclusions.”
Researchers believe that psilocybin changes the way the brain is organized, allowing users to adopt new attitudes more easily and helping to overcome depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, alcoholism, and other problems.
Eckert said graduating students will be prepared to help clients see the benefits of psilocybin.
“I feel like this is a great time for our culture and our country as we collectively begin to re-examine and re-evaluate the nature of mental health and wellness, while also bringing real healing to those in need,” he said.
Another facilitator training effort in southern Oregon has left upset students and a lawyer in the Netherlands trying to figure out what happened.
Synthesis Institute, a company with more than 200 students in Oregon according to a Psychedelic Alpha article, was declared bankrupt on Tuesday, Dutch court documents showed. The company’s website, which had not been taken down as of Friday, shows the tuition at $12,997. The students are trying to get refunds.
“Synthesis has really pulled the rug out from under us, for a lot of people,” one of the students, Cori Sue Morris, told Psychedelic Alpha.
Roos Suurmond, a lawyer in Amsterdam specializing in bankruptcy law, confirmed that she has been appointed a trustee to deal with the bankruptcy. She said in an interview that she was not yet able to answer questions about the bankruptcy as she was recently appointed and has yet to investigate.
In February, the company’s liabilities totaled about $850,000 and it was unable to pay its employees in the US and the Netherlands, Psychedelic Alpha reported.
A real estate purchase in southern Oregon didn’t help matters.
An Oregon limited liability company, Oregon Retreat Centers LLC, was formed by Synthesis co-founder Myles Katz, Psychedelic Alpha reported. He purchased a 124-acre rustic retreat near Ashland, Oregon, in Jackson County for $3.6 million and planned to turn the site into a psilocybin service center, but a zoning issue developed.
While Oregon voters approved the psilocybin measure in 2020, it did not legalize the drug until January 1, 2023. Psilocybin sessions are expected to be available to the public in mid to late 2023.
In November, Colorado voters also approved a ballot measure allowing the regulated use of “magic mushrooms” beginning in 2024.
Corder reported from The Hague, Netherlands.