Psilocybin microdosing (i.e., taking a small, non-hallucinating dose of magic mushrooms several times a week, or daily) is gaining popularity. What was originally a trend amongst college students and Silicon Valley billionaires is quickly becoming mainstream. One might think of Oregon as a sanctuary for individuals interested in microdosing, as Ballot Measure 109 legalized psilocybin services with service centers coming online in 2023. However, whether microdosing is allowed under Measure 109 is complicated and ambiguous.
Textualist Reading of Measure 109
The term “microdosing” does not appear anywhere in Measure 109. The measure also does not set dosing “minimums,” and only tasks the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) with establishing maximum dosing standards. While most service sessions are expected to last several hours, there is no set rule for the minimum amount of time clients must stay at a service center. From this purely textualist read, Measure 109 does not forbid microdosing, which might open the door for rapid fire service sessions using only small amounts of psilocybin. However, the practicality of microdosing under the Measure 109 framework runs into logistical problems.
The Oregon Psilocybin Services Act will allow individuals over the age of 21 to use psilocybin at licensed service centers under the supervision of a trained facilitator. Before receiving services, clients must complete an intake screening, participate in a preparation and administration session, and have the option of completing an integration session after their psychedelic experience. This is not inherently welcoming to microdosing, as most clients who want to take a small dosage regularly don’t have the time or money to go through the entire screening and administration process daily or several times a week.
Individuals wanting to incorporate microdosing as an ordinary part of their weekly or daily routine might not benefit from, or want, a fully guided experience with a facilitator every time they take a small amount of psilocybin. It is also unclear how long microdosing clients will need to wait until they can safely leave or transport themselves from a service center. Thus, while the text of Measure 109 does not bar microdosing, it becomes complicated when considering the broader regulatory requirements.
Intent of Measure 109
The main architects of Ballot Measure 109 are themselves conflicted about whether microdosing is within the spirit of the measure. As reported by Willamette Weekly, there is a split of opinion whether Measure 109’s lack of prohibition against microdosing leaves the door open for microdosing, or, whether the spirit of 109 in creating a more therapeutic, non-dispensary model is at direct odds with microdosing practices.
Measure 109’s intentional divergence from a cannabis dispensary model is clear. Service centers are the only location administration sessions can occur, sessions are expected to last several hours, and psilocybin products cannot leave service centers. Cannabis dispensaries sell cannabis that is to be consumed off site. If clients go to service centers weekly, or daily, to receive microdosing services, this quickly looks like a dispensary system we see with cannabis, just subtracting the fact psilocybin product must remain on site.
On the other hand, Measure 109 legalized psilocybin “services” broadly. While much of the marketing behind Measure 109 focused on “psilocybin therapy,” there is no requirement for clients to receive a medical diagnosis before accessing services. An individual's motive in seeking services is largely irrelevant under the measure, and consumers can receive services for purposes of improving mental health, personal wellbeing, spiritual enlightenment, or maybe even microdosing?
Microdosing Efficacy is Still Unknown
The Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board’s research subcommittee heard a presentation from Chris Stauffer, MD, on the efficacy of microdosing during a meeting in January 2022. Dr. Stauffer highlights in his presentation that “popular use has outpaced scientific evidence.” Currently available data is not fully reliable as there are shortfalls in research methodology and data collection. This includes studies using a wide range of dosage protocols, gender bias, and a notable lack of double-blind testing for placebo effect.
Studies compiled by Dr. Stauffer in his presentation to the research subcommittee show conflicting results. A 2018 interview study found that those microdosing psilocybin reported improved mental health and creativity, but there were also reports of insomnia and some participants stated they would not continue microdosing. A 2020 online survey found similar improvements in mental health and cognitive function but noted negative effects such as anxiety and adverse physical side effects. A 2021 study employing “self-blinding” citizen science, where participants were given online instructions directing them to incorporate placebo control into their own microdosing routine, found no significant difference between microdosing and placebo in terms of personal well-being and mental health.
OHA is still in the middle of rulemaking, and the first set of proposed rules impacting microdosing will not come out until this summer. This means the fate of microdosing is still up in the air, and we may not know the full answer until rule making finishes and license applications open in 2023. Several other states are currently considering psilocybin legalization or decriminalization, with some following Oregon’s “adult services” approach, and others considering a medical approach. It will be interesting to see how aggressively these states tackle microdosing, and when science will finally catch up and allow consumers to make an informed decision of whether psilocybin microdosing is right for them.