One of the first few states to legalize cannabis, Oregon is now leading the way for another Schedule I drug: psilocybin mushrooms. These hallucinogenic fungi have been known in popular media as the drug that causes trippy experiences, including users imagining melting walls or multicolored skies. As exciting as that image is, the scientific reality shows meaningful, beneficial effects on those who partake in psilocybin.
Psilocybin has shown to significantly help those with severe depression, addictions, and PTSD; and because of these promising effects, Oregon is furthering the availability of the mushrooms by allowing patients access while under supervision at certain clinics. While there are still rules and regulations concerning their use, we believe it is important to prepare for the possible negative outcomes to this experimental drug being offered to the public. After all, rules and regulations can be broken, and that’s often when people need a lawyer – usually a car accident or personal injury lawyer.
What is the new law?
On January 1st, Oregon enacted Measure 109, a law that legalized psilocybin mushrooms – the first state to do so. Known for their hallucinogenic properties, psilocybin has “shown significant promise for treating severe depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and end-of-life anxiety among the terminally ill, among other mental health conditions,” according to an article by the New York Times.
In a recent study, It was found that alcohol use among heavy drinkers declined by 83% when treated with two doses of psilocybin in combination with talk therapy; and by the end of the eight-month trial, almost half of the participants had stopped drinking altogether. While this study seems promising, the long term effects of psilocybin are uncertain.
Measure 109 allows people over the age of 21 to consume the mushrooms in a supervised setting, but are not allowed to leave the supervised clinic until their experience is over, usually lasting five to six hours. Psilocybin, unlike cannabis, will not be allowed to be sold at retail stores, and must be used at certain clinics or service centers. Psilocybin sessions will not be covered by insurance, and so making use of the clinics will likely cost hundreds to thousands of dollars, especially since licensed and trained facilitators must be present in order to supervise each client’s experience.
While psilocybin is not yet legal in Washington State, we are sure to feel the ripples of this new law from our neighbor to the south.
What are the possible dangers of legalized psilocybin use?
While the Times article points out that “psilocybin is widely considered safe and serious adverse reactions are rare,” the immediate effects of the mushroom can alter the user’s perception of reality in a dangerous way if they are taken without proper precaution. Medical Use Today lists the possible effects of psilocybin as:
- spiritual awakening
- derealization, or the feeling that surroundings are not real
- depersonalization, or a dream-like sense of being disengaged from surroundings
- distorted thinking
- visual alteration and distortion, such as seeing halos of light and vivid colors
- dilated pupils
- drowsiness and yawning
- impaired concentration
- muscle weakness
- lack of coordination
- unusual body sensations
- nausea and vomiting
- frightening hallucinations
Many of the effects are either positive or neutral to the user, and the more negative effects are less common. However, we can see why having a trained facilitator supervising the experience is a good idea, and why leaving the clinic while under the influence of the mushroom is not allowed.
Just like with most other drugs (including alcohol), psilocybin can be misused. Perhaps someone is allowed to leave the clinic when the facilitator believes them to be sober, when in actuality they are still under the influence. At that point, if the patient chooses to drive or to walk home, they can become a danger to themselves or others. They may drive headlong into oncoming traffic, or stumble out into the street. When that happens, who is liable for the accident? The person under the effect of the drug, or the clinic that let them leave while under the influence?
Who is liable for my car accident?
Based on the text of Psilocybin Services Act, there are several inferences we can make as to who is liable should the client end up injured or injuring others during or after visiting a psilocybin service center.
As per section 71 of the act, “Prohibition regarding person who is visibly intoxicated; penalty.
(1) A person may not sell, give or otherwise make available a psilocybin product to a person who
is visibly intoxicated. (2) Violation of this section is a Class A misdemeanor.”
So just as a bartender cannot overserve an already inebriated patron without being held liable for any accidents they may cause upon leaving the bar, a facilitator may not offer psilocybin to a client who already seems intoxicated.
Administration of the psilocybin must always and only occur within a psilocybin service center, which includes a client purchasing, consuming, and experiencing the effects of a psilocybin product under the supervision of a psilocybin service facilitator. It is possible that if the facilitator wrongly determines that the client is no longer under the influence, and the client leaves while still under the effects of the psilocybin, the facilitator or service center may be held liable for any injuries or accidents caused by this intoxication.
There is also a form that the customer has to sign before being administered the psilocybin, though what exactly is included in the form is not stated outright within the Act. It is possible that it may include safety warnings, and in that case, may keep the service center from being held liable in some respects.
The truth is that since this is a new law that has yet to be tested fully, we are unsure as to how liability is applied under these situations, and that is a problem. There will likely be mistakes made. There is a high probability that lawsuits will ensue, which will clear up the questions on liability. Until then, determining who might be liable in an accident with a client who has used psilocybin from a service center may be difficult.
At Philbrook Law Office, we’re ready to take on that challenge. If you have been hurt due to either the service center’s negligence, or the negligence of a client who has been to one such service center, we will ensure that the appropriate parties will be held liable, and that you receive the compensation you deserve. To schedule an appointment, call us or use our contact page. We have offices in Vancouver, WA as well as Battle Ground. We want to fight for you.
Founding Attorney Matthew Philbrook attended Clark College, Washington State University, and Gonzaga University School of Law. He is a member of the Washington State and Oregon State Bar Associations and started Philbrook Law Office in 2005. He specializes in Personal Injury, DUI and Criminal Defense cases. Learn more about Mr. Philbrook.