Welcome to the magic (mushroom) kingdom

In Oregon's Disneyland of Drugs, legalized psilocybin is the Epcot Center. Decriminalized by a statewide vote in 2020 and available from licensed "facilitators," psychedelic mushrooms have attracted many people to Portland to see what it's like to "journey" with the "medicine." From all accounts, there have been far more out-of-state patients tripping here than in-state. One shop invites "psychedelic tourists" to come give it a go.

But to do it the legal way is expensive, and there hasn't been as much demand as the mushroom entrepreneurs expected back when their eyes were all dollar signs. The other day we learned that the one "service center" located over by the airport is shutting down after half a year. The owner who reportedly lost the biggest shirt on that one is a used car dealer in Utah. I am not making that up.

I wound up voting against Measure 109, which established Oregon as the 'shroom experiment capital of the hemisphere, just as I voted against Measure 110, its companion measure that legalized hard street drugs and led to the prolonged destruction of Portland's core. I don't doubt that psilocybin can help some people with mental illness, but it should be administered by high-level mental health professionals – you know, doctors and psychologists – as part of a legitimate program of treatment. It should not be a one-day stand with some spacey former social worker who took a six-month course and passed an exam written by bureaucrats in Salem. It should not be like getting your nails done.

Then there are bound to be guys like this:

Li ran a chain of pain clinics in the state of Washington until 2016, when state regulators suspended his medical license, alleging that use of drugs his clinics prescribed had contributed to the deaths of 18 people who were his patients at the time, or had been in the recent past.

The U.S. Department of Justice came after him, too, alleging that he billed Medicare and Medicaid for thousands of unnecessary urine tests at a lab that he owned. He agreed to pay $2.85 million to settle those charges, on top of a lifetime ban from treating chronic pain.

Despite all that, the Oregon Health Authority granted Li permission last November to operate a psilocybin service center. He opened Immersive Therapies on Northwest Quimby Street in January.

The whole wacky scene can't be helping Oregon's reputation among sane people around the country. On top of normalizing street camping, addiction to dope, and vandalism, making psilocybin legal has pushed Oregon too far out there for the average Joe or Jane. We have let pride in our weirdness make the place the opposite of the attractive locale it was a couple of decades ago. 

I don't mind if the in-migration of California refugees slows; after all, I've complained about them for decades (hypocritically, after sort of being one of them myself). But the out-migration of working people who just want a quiet, normal life has been a real tragedy, and there's no end to that in sight.

Part of me thinks the worst of it is that Measure 109 sends out a vague message that magic mushrooms are groovy, and maybe everybody should try them. If that's the takeaway, well, the kids know that you don't really have to spend $2,000 and sit around all day in a clinic with a stranger old enough to be your dad. But when it's you and your friends over at the skateboard park with some caps that you scored from your older brother's friend's friend, that's when it becomes dangerous. The fewer people who attempt to go that route, the better. And yet we know:

The legalization of psilocybin mushrooms in Oregon is spurring an expansion of the decades-old illegal market.

“There are people and organizations openly facilitating psilocybin trips outside of the state-run system in Oregon,” says Vince Sliwoski, a lawyer at Harris Bricken Sliwoski LLP who specializes in cannabis and now psilocybin. “You don’t have to look that hard to find them. There’s going to be a big underground economy for this stuff.”

That underground is already expanding, people in the industry say. Facilitators, some of them newly graduated from trip training programs, are leading sessions in their homes, in Airbnbs, and on psychedelic retreats abroad. Amateur mycologists are growing hundreds of grams of Psilocybe cubensis in plastic tubs in basements around town.

Finally, let us not forget the off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot who was up in the cockpit trying to crash a plane over Portland a few months ago. His excuse was that he was coming off mushrooms from two days earlier. Whether he was tripping at a licensed place or on his buddy's couch wouldn't have mattered much, now, would it?

I don't think I'll ever like the feel of Measure 109.  I think we need less drugs, not more. Oh, well. Colorado's next. Let's hope I'm wrong, and not too many people get hurt before the whole thing gets restructured, the way Measure 110 did.

Speaking of which, when do you think Governor Kohoutek will sign the bill repealing most of Measure 110? I predicted it would be today, Good Friday, to minimize awkward media coverage. We'll soon see if my prediction was better than my March Madness bracket.


  1. Replies
    1. I voted for 109 and against 110. I'm fairly libertarian, but i could see the massive social harm of ubiquitously cheap meth and fentanyl access in a state that refuses to curb homelessness.

      On the subject of entry-level magic mushroom entrepreneurs, there is a hilarious show on MAX called Bookie that portrays former pot dealers trying to rebrand themselves as psilocybin shamen.

  2. Before I helped the founder, Scott Holden, set up Mindtrek, I ran an end of life care business here in Portland. Not only was I setting up home care systems for the disabled and terminally ill, I was boots on the ground helping people near death. I don’t think anyone who knows me would argue that I am most certainly not a spacey ex-social worker. I was the person you might call in a crisis.

    Scott hired me years ago to take care of father the last few years of his life. And even before Oregon rolled out their magic mushroom program, we concurred on the power of psychedelics in terms of opening one’s perspective and healing. So when Scott approached me with this opportunity, I did not hesitate.

    Perhaps getting my psilocybin facilitation certification was a bit of a breeze, but I think your piece (respectfully) lacks some deep insights of the bigger picture. I understand the overly obvious sociopolitical sentiments of the blog but I think it misses the larger picture; the fact that Oregon is the first in the US to roll out a program and historically this will be important. Yes, the adult use model is wrought with issues, but once the FDA approves this therapy and Oregon psilocybin decides to become a medical model ( as Colorado intends on doing), all will be looking to the skeleton Oregon has created. But a medical model will be no panacea either. You discuss doctors and high level psychologists embarking properly on this therapy, but I believe they will have similar sentiments as us in that we can try to boiler plate this, find threads relevant to treatment, but the fact is, it’s incredibly elusive. That is a whole other topic.

    We can get caught up in the failed investor used car salesman- homeless encampments- crazed pilot- trippy hippie Portland mythology, but it's very far from the truth of how and why psilocybin changes peoples lives and some of the people committed to this process.

    Unlike the journey center, our service center is employee based. And I believe this will be part of our staying power.
    I’m sending you our website in the hopes you will listen to the daily grind podcast with Mindtrek’s founder under the blog tab. I think you might enjoy it, and may shed a bit of optimism and a layer of understanding absent from your blog. If you’re extra curious, I’d love to extend an invite to our center in Raleigh Hills. It may not change your mind, but you may like meeting some level headed folks involved in this process!

    Sincerely, Alexis

    1. Neat.

      Your “profession” is a sham.

  3. $2000 to have some sketchy stranger who professes to be a “professional” stare at you while you trip. No thank you. Sounds about as much fun as cleaning moss off of an old house for 8 hours.

    I think I paid $1 to my HS joint dealer for my first shroom trip. Had a blast that night, and my friend came over with his Honda 90 and we rode all around my neighborhood until late in the night.

    But you know what they say about a fool and his money.

  4. "But when it's you and your friends over at the skateboard park with some caps that you scored from your older brother's friend's friend, that's when it becomes dangerous. The fewer people who attempt to go that route, the better."

    In fact, that's probably one of the safest recreational activities kids could get into. I'm not aware of fentanyl being put into mushrooms. But given how kids can order any drug they want via Snap and have it delivered to their door like DoorDash within 30 minutes, mushrooms is one of the least concerning recreational drugs.

    Mushrooms is a fun recreational experience that a lot of kids and adults experiment with a couple times and then move on. It's really not a party drug, as it's super easy to get thrown off by large crowds of people - you're more likely to get isolated and introspective.

    I'm not going to indulge a moral panic about something that's about as dangerous as Absinthe. Yeah, don't operate heavily machinery, wear a helmet at the skatepark (especially if you're high), but if you just want to walk around Gabriel Park while high on shrooms and rolling around the grass on a sunny day, the amount of clinical harm is nearly non-existent.

    Meanwhile, what kills kids every other day in this country is someone thinking they're ordering Ritalin to study for a test, or Oxycodone to take the edge off, and they die 17 minutes after the pill touches their lips.

    1. For anyone unsure if mushrooms are harmless or not: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1071149/

      "6,317 exposures occurred" "in children younger than 6 years, and of these, only 6.0% experienced any clinical effects. The most common symptoms in patients aged 6 years and older were vomiting in 588 patients (28.2%), nausea in 307 patients (14.7%), diarrhea in 263 patients (12.6%), and abdominal pain in 221 patients (10.6%). No effects were seen in 3,131 (49.6% of all patients)."

      The only person who died in this 6,000+ person study over the course of 4 years was a single guy who foraged bad mushrooms. "Major toxic reactions or death was uncommon."


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