SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon's pioneering experiment with legalized magic mushrooms took a step closer to reality as the first "facilitators" who will accompany clients as they experience the drug received their state licenses, authorities said Tuesday.
Voters approved the regulated use of psilocybin in a 2020 ballot measure, and anticipation has been building over the past 2 1/2 years for the day — expected to come later this year — when people can gain access to the drug that studies indicate has therapeutic value.
Hundreds of people have invested thousands of dollars apiece in this budding industry, and some worry that the rollout is proceeding too slowly.
"We thank you for your dedication to client safety and access as we move closer to opening service centers," Oregon Psilocybin Services Manager Angie Allbee said in a statement Tuesday to three people who received the state's first facilitator licenses.
But to date, no service centers — where customers would access psilocybin in controlled, calm environments with music, eye masks and mats — have been licensed. Nor has any laboratory where the products must be tested for potency. The psilocybin may come in the form of whole dried mushrooms, ground homogenized fungi, extracts and edible products, the Oregon Health Authority says.
Tori Armbrust applied for a license to grow magic mushrooms on Jan. 2, the first day the health authority began accepting applications. In March, she became the first person to receive a manufacturer license. Allbee at the time congratulated Armbrust "for representing women leading the way for the emerging psilocybin ecosystem."
Armbrust paid $10,000 for the license, which is good for only one year. To renew it, she will have to pay another $10,000. Between the license fee, renting a space in Portland to grow the mushrooms and setting up utilities and other elements, the 33-year-old said she has already spent about $25,000 of her life savings.
And she has yet to earn a dime.
She is growing psilocybin mushrooms, with the first harvest expected in a few weeks, but has no one to sell them to because no service centers have been licensed. Even before any of her "psilocybe cubensis" mushrooms can go to a service center, she needs a licensed lab to test them.
"People are under a lot of pressure with all this overhead," Armbrust said in an interview Monday. "It's a lot of money and we have to get it going."
Oregon Psilocybin Services, which is part of the health authority, said Tuesday that it anticipates issuing licenses to service center and lab applicants "in the coming months."
"We're going to have to see how it all plays out," Armbrust said. "This is all new and nobody can say for sure what's going to happen. So, I'm just trying my best to, on my own, grow as much medicine as I can."
About 100 people recently completed a $7,900, six-month course at a retreat near Portland to learn how to become facilitators and earn a certificate. That enables them to then take a test administered by the health authority to receive facilitator licenses.
As of Tuesday, three manufacturing licenses and three facilitator licenses have been issued.
Oregon Psilocybin Services expects centers to open their doors and licensed facilitators to offer services sometime this fall, said health authority spokesperson Afiq Hisham.
"Many applicants are working through complex issues, such as working with their cities and counties on zoning or ensuring the proposed premises meets requirements," Hisham said. "We are prioritizing applications in the order received and working to provide site inspections for those that are ready."