Since January 1, 2021, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) has engaged in a two-year development phase, creating regulations based on Ballot Measure 109. There are five subcommittees covering different aspects of the emerging psilocybin industry including research, health equity, manufacturing, training, and licensing.

In this post, we will cover the most recent Research Subcommittee meeting on July 23, 2022. The Subcommittee discussed the Cultural and Anthropological Review of Resources (Review), and whether to recommend it to the Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board (OPAB). Unfortunately, there was not a quorum in attendance at this meeting, thus the Subcommittee was not able to vote to recommend the Review at this time.

Psilocybin culture and anthropology research

The Review is a work product of Research Subcommittee meetings over the past year. It summarizes the salient talking points and work of guest speakers who attended these meetings.

While expertise and research varied among the speakers, all of their presentations to the Subcommittee focused on cultural and anthropological aspects of psilocybin use. All presentation recordings and supporting documents are available on the Research Subcommittee website by clicking the corresponding meeting dates.

Dr. Del Potter

Dr. Potter is a medical anthropologist who spoke to the Subcommittee on August 26, 2021.

He stressed the OHA and OPAB must mindfully engage with indigenous groups in Oregon, which is essential for psilocybin services in Oregon. He said OHA has a responsibility to communicate with indigenous groups during the rulemaking process to benefit these communities. This opens the door for different models for psilocybin services. The Research Subcommittee reiterated the importance of being open to different models.

It is important to note that OPAB recently reviewed a different model framework for entheogenic practitioners. This topic was very controversial, and you can read our post on it here.

Dr. Potter explained there is a lack of research on indigenous psilocybin use in Oregon, despite the historical importance of psilocybin in these communities. More research will help reconcile traditional psilocybin use with modern western framework of Measure 109.

Dr. Bia Labate

Dr. Labate is a social anthropologist who spoke to the Subcommittee on October 28, 2021.

She stressed how projecting indigenous speakers is essential to understanding psilocybin use; not all indigenous communities use psilocybin. Further, speakers representing women, black communities, LQBTQ+, an people from other countries is essential for community healing. She focused on social justice and equity, and emphasized how indigenous cultures use psychedelics to heal the community through the individual, not merely the individual.

She said Social justice must also be brought with compassion, humor, and fun.

Dr. Paula Noel Macfie

Dr. Macfie is an Indigenous Science researcher who spoke to the Subcommittee on November 18, 2021.

While all of these speakers posited the importance of “bridging” research gaps, Dr. Macfie emphasized the “bicultural research model,” which bridges Western and indigenous science. She stressed that OHA should avoid limiting the psilocybin industry to an exclusive Western scientific paradigm. The narrow Western models misses out on valuable indigenous knowledge, from which the entire community may benefit.

She provided resources for her presentation, including a paper on the psychedelic renaissance, a list of related terms, a summary of indigenous science criteria, a list of indigenous social rules and protocols, measures of the indigenous mind, and a list of resources.

Dr. Monnica Williams

Dr. Williams is a licensed clinical psychologist who spoke to the Subcommittee on February 24, 2022. A reader-friendly version of her presentation is available here.

She focused on diversity, pointing out the eight major categories: culture, race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, social/economic classification, age, disability, and religion. She explained how racism causes negative mental health outcomes, known as “racial trauma.” The War on Drugs has been an ongoing source of racial trauma and causes people of color and low-income communities to distrust medical research.

The psilocybin industry can be an antidote to racial trauma by incorporating culturally informed care. Adequately representing people of color in psychedelic research is not only wanting, but essential for the psilocybin industry.

Dr. Benjamin Feinberg

Dr. Feinberg is an anthropology professor at Warren Wilson College, and spoke to the Subcommittee on March 31, 2022.

He discussed cultures in the Sierra Mazateca region who use psilocybin. The Western world tries to dominate these cultural uses by imposing a perceived “sophisticated” method. Yet, he maintains, respect and reciprocity is the path to a deeper understanding of psilocybin.

The Sierra Mazateca people who use psilocybin have different definitions of language and healing, which leads to psilocybin practices much different than the Western world. For instance, rain can be a way ancestors speak them, and healing can involve locating a lost soul.

He explained Oregon psilocybin services should not dominate, or forcibly alter, such practices by imposing a strictly Western model.

Outlook and OPAB public listening sessions

If the Research Subcommittee eventually votes to recommend this document to OPAB, it is unclear how OPAB will use the information. As discussed in another post, OPAB already reviewed and rejected a framework for entheogenic practitioners. While indigenous practices are not exclusively entheogenic, OPAB may be similarly reluctant to recommend indigenous-related rules to OHA. You can read more about the entheogenic framework here.

On another note, from July 13 through 15 OHA will hold Oregon Psilocybin Services listening sessions. This is an opportunity for members of the public to speak directly to OHA about the developing psilocybin industry in Oregon. Zoom links are available on the Public Listening Sessions webpage.

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