County looks to vote on production of psilocybin mushrooms

Linn County residents will have the opportunity to vote on whether they want to allow the production of psilocybin mushrooms outside of incorporated cities on the November ballot, Commissioners Roger Nyquist, Sherrie Sprenger and Will Tucker agreed unanimously Tuesday, June 21.

In the November 2020 election, Oregonians approved Ballot Measure 109, which legalized the use of psilocybin — often referred to as psychedelic — mushrooms. Proponents believe it may be effective in the treatment of PTSD and drug addictions. Although the measure passed statewide, it was defeated in Linn County, 55% to 44%. The commissioners said they believed residents wanted to vote on the issue locally.

All of Oregon’s 36 counties were included when the measure was passed statewide, but the measure allows counties to refer the issue to prohibit the production, manufacture and development of service centers to local residents.

The commissioners all agreed that the state’s previous forays into legalizing marijuana and decriminalizing harder drugs, such as methamphetamines and heroin, have failed. Board Chairman Nyquist said that decriminalizing hard drugs may “work in some society, somewhere, but that has not been the case in Oregon.”

He said that members of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission warned that legalizing marijuana — without putting curbs on quantities of production to match consumer demand — would lead to a huge overproduction issue, and it has. The current estimate is that the state produces five times more marijuana than Oregonians consume, which has led to a major black-market issue.

“It is a mess,” Nyquist said.

The commissioners also agreed that marijuana-grow operations have caused contamination issues in homes, due to the high humidity needed to grow the plants. It leads to mold and other issues.

The commissioners asked staff to develop a proposal that could be placed on the November ballot and bring that information back for review.

In other business, the commissioners:

♦ Learned of 75 births (34 girls/41 boys) and 113 deaths in Linn County in May. Some 1,000 COVID-19 cases were reported, with three deaths in which it could have been a factor.

♦ Approved a sheltering/emergency use agreement with the Harrisburg School District in the event of a significant disaster.

♦ Approved annual service contracts between the Linn County Sheriff’s Office and the cities of Brownsville, Halsey, Harrisburg, Lyons, Mill City, Millersburg and Scio.

♦ Approved a contract to provide 34 beds at the Linn County Jail for the Department of Corrections — Parole and Probation for a total of $10,549,996.40.

♦ Approved seeking concessionaires and caterers for the Linn County Expo Center for two years.

♦ Learned of seven major shows at the Expo Center since January. Center director Randy Porter estimates that the events have drawn about 34,000 people and generated at least $1.2 million for local motels, plus another $1.4 million at local restaurants.

♦ Approved the purchase of a new backhoe for the Road Department at a cost of $146,011.

♦ Approved a $125,445 contract with Garten Services to provide janitorial services at the Annex, General Services, the Hurd Building, Lebanon Health Center, Washington Street Health and the Willamette Health Center.

♦ Supported a Santiam Hospital request to expand its mental health program, especially for people living in the Santiam Canyon who were affected by the September 2020 wildfires.

♦ Approved writing off $4,143 in uncollectible fees for Mental Health Services and another $3,050 for the Alcohol and Drug Treatment Program.

♦ Appointed Emma Deane to Position 7 of the Linn County Alcohol and Drug Planning Committee and Shawnell Tolliver Scott McKee to positions 6 and 13, respectively, on the Linn County Mental Health Advisory Board.

♦ Approved a 5% cost of living adjustment (the same as union members) for the county’s elected officials, management exempt and Teamster members. They did not receive a COLA last year and inflation is currently pegged at more than 8%. Chairman Nyquist did not accept a COLA.

♦ Approved the purchase of a pre-built, all-concrete CST restroom for $94,630 to replace a 50-year-old unit at Waterloo County Park.

♦ Announced that the board will meet at 11 a.m. Thursday, June 30, to adopt the 2022-23 budget. No board meeting was held Tuesday, June 28.

– Alex Paul, Linn County Communications Officer