Feb 12, 2024 - News

Magic mushroom seizures are up in Oregon

Psilocybin mushrooms

Psilocybin mushroom grown in a cultivation facility in Littleton. Photo: Courtesy Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Seizures of psilocybin mushrooms ("magic mushrooms") by law enforcement rose in Oregon and across the country from 2017 to 2022, according to a study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Why it matters: While a regulated market for psychedelic fungi exists in Oregon, police are still targeting the black market of recreational users.

By the numbers: Oregon ranked eighth in the country for confiscations during that six-year period, with 182.

  • Between 2017 and 2022, Oregon's annual mushroom seizures rose to 41, an increase of 105% — the 21st biggest increase in the nation.

Zoom out: Nationally, law enforcement recorded 1,396 psilocybin mushroom seizures in 2022, up from 402 in 2017, reports Axios Denver's Esteban L. Hernandez.

Context: The study's time frame includes periods before Oregon became the first state to legalize psilocybin for therapeutic use in 2020 with the passage of Measure 109.

Flashback: Measure 110 decriminalized small amounts of most recreational drugs in 2020, including psilocybin, but lawmakers are already rethinking that law.

Of note: Licensed growers may not retail the mushrooms and can only sell to licensed service centers.

Be smart: The states and regions where seizures are reported don't necessarily reflect the fungi's intended destinations, according to the study's authors.

The intrigue: The findings could signal that more people are using psilocybin for nonmedical or recreational use.

  • Psilocybin is thought to be the most-consumed plant-based psychedelic, with 11.3% of people age 12 and over reporting having ever used it in 2022.

What they're saying: Joseph J. Palamar, lead author on the study and an associate professor at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, told Axios by email:

  • "The positive media coverage about the drug's medical benefits might be contributing to people's willingness to use it."

What's happening: Nathan Howard, director of operations at InnerTrek's Center for Psilocybin Services in Portland, said psilocybin is having a cultural moment nationally for several reasons.

Half a century after the beginning of the war on drugs, "you have people just begging for their life for something different than alcohol for recreation, which is poisonous, unlike mushrooms, and begging for something that gets to the root cause of their unhappiness," he told Axios.

  • Howard said the movement welcomes expanded legal, therapeutic use of psilocybin, such as in Oregon and Colorado, as well as reclassification by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  • He compared the underground use of mushrooms containing psilocybin to quilting.
  • "People make them and give them to their friends."
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