Oregon trains magic mushroom facilitators


DAMASCUS, Oregon — At a woodsy retreat center in Oregon, some 30 men and women are seated or lying down, masks covering their eyes and listening to serene music.

They are among the first crop of students being trained how to accompany patients tripping on psilocybin, as Oregon prepares to become the first U.S. state to offer controlled use of the psychedelic mushroom to the public.

Expected to be available to the public in mid- or late-2023, the program is charting a potential course for other states. Oregon voters approved Ballot Measure 109 on psilocybin by an 11% margin in 2020.

In November, Colorado voters also passed a ballot measure allowing regulated use of “magic mushrooms” starting in 2024. On Dec. 16, California state Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco introduced a bill to legalize psilocybin and other psychedelic substances.

“Psychedelics help people heal from trauma, depression & addiction,” Wiener tweeted. “Why are they still illegal in California?”

InnerTrek, a Portland company, is now training around 100 students, in three groups, to be licensed “facilitators” who will create a safe space for dosing sessions and be a reassuring, but nonintrusive, presence. Some classes in the six-month, $7,900 course are online but others are in-person, held near Portland in a building resembling a mountain lodge with Tibetan prayer flags flapping in the breeze nearby.

Because psilocybin use is still illegal, the only mushrooms at the training center were the shitake ones served in the miso soup at lunch.

Trainer Gina Gratza told the students that the space, or “container,” for a dosing session at a licensed center should include a couch or mats for clients to sit or lie on, an eye mask, comfort items like a blanket and stuffed animals, a sketch pad, pencils and a bucket for vomiting. A session typically lasts at least six hours.

Music is an important part of the experience and should be available, from speakers or on headphones. (Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research in Baltimore have developed a playlist that “ seeks to express the sweeping arc of the typical medium- or high-dose psilocybin session.”)

“You are here to support safe passage and hold the container that powers a release and an unfolding,” Gratza told the students. “Be mindful of how you’re speaking and what the energy of what you’re putting out may be conveying.”

Trainers emphasized that those taking psilocybin should be given the freedom to explore whatever emotions emerge during their inner journeys. They shouldn’t be consoled if they’re crying, for example. Expressing anger is fine but there should be agreement beforehand that there will be no throwing of objects or hitting.


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