Jackson County Psilocybin Ventures Could Be Penned in By Zoning Laws, Despite Failure of Ballot Measure

Credit: New Frontier Ranch
New Frontier Ranch.

The county’s planning commission is mulling a local ordinance that could sink plans for a psychedelic ranch

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Earlier this month Jackson County voters rejected a county ballot measure that would have prohibited the manufacturing and sale of psilocybin. That means those planning wellness businesses in the area can still do so, in theory.

But a pending county ordinance might upend plans for a psilocybin retreat in rural Southern Oregon, and significantly restrict where similar businesses could be built.

On Nov. 3, the Jackson County Planning Commission passed JCLDO 3.14.4, which states that “all Psilocybin Service Centers are limited to General Commercial zoning districts.”

According of the Jackson County zoning map, the restriction would limit psylocibin services to small area of unincorporated properties near I-5 corridor.

The commission did not respond to a request for comment. But Mike Arnold, CEO and founder of Silo Wellness, says the restriction would upend a venture he announced in October, along with New Frontier Ranch: a 960-acre psychedelic wellness retreat in rural Jackson County. If it’s built, it would be the largest of its kind.

After Arnold testified at a Nov. 10 Jackson County Planning Commission meeting, the commission amended the ordinance to allow for rural retreat centers. Arnold’s testimony also convinced the comission to allow home occupations. Arnold says the county’s current psilocybin regulating ordinance has “come a long way” from the original, but its ultimate fate is still up in the air: a final hearing on the ordinance takes place Nov. 23.

Of the seven Oregon counties facing similar measures, Jackson and Deschutes were the only two to vote them down, keeping local psilocybin regulations with a 2020 state ballot measure legalizing the drug for medicinal use.

“The results of the election that gave us a little more certainty about some of the rural communities where I see some of the best properties for major retreats with psilocybin,” says Arnold. “The election also signaled there’s a lot of people in the rural areas who want access to the medicine, but there’s still uncertainty due to poor leadership by policymakers who prey on misinformation and fear.”

The new ordinance would preclude his specific retreat facility, which is sited in a rural area outside of Ashland. It would also limit psylocibin retreats to noisy, heavily-trafficked areas which Arnold says would be untenable for the kind of retreat he wants to build.

Silo is Oregon’s only publicly traded psilocybin company. Arnold also runs a psychedelic wellness resort in Jamaica.

Bob Parnell, a retired 20-year Army veteran from northern Virginia, says his trip to Jamaica site in June was life changing.

“I had PTSD, depression, anxiety, the whole gamut. Alcohol has been a part of military life and once I got out it become more and more important to me, to the point where it was harming my family,” Parnell tells Oregon Business.

“It helped me open my mind and see. See the things that I’ve done and how they’ve harmed other people, and to be able to empathize in a much broader way and be open about my feelings about things like that,” Parnell says.

Parnell’s wife, Amber, traveled with him. She says the experience helped her with her own struggles with anger and anxiety.

In addition to facilitating their experience and giving instructions on how to prepare for it, Silo staff also followed up with them for a month afterward.

“It was the complete opposite of a wild party. You were around nature and it couldn’t have been more peaceful. Anyone who has any fear or apprehension around psylocibin just needs to do more research,” Amber Parnell says.

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