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Oregon Psychedelics Regulator Resigns Over a Conflict of Interest

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: Mar 16, 2022   
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The chair of the psilocybin regulatory board in Oregon has resigned after becoming embroiled in a conflict-of-interest scandal.

As reported by the Guardian, the former chair Tom Eckert resigned after it was revealed that he has interests in a company that trains psilocybin therapists.

Competing interests

Back in November 2020, Oregon voters approved a ballot measure to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for therapy sessions.

To manage this new legalization process, the Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board (OPAB) was created to advise the Oregon Health Authority on psilocybin’s safety and to make “recommendations on the requirements, specifications and guidelines for providing psilocybin services in Oregon.” Members of the board are appointed by the state governor to serve four-year terms.

Eckert was one of these members, but issued a letter of resignation on March 10 after it came to light that he had a relationship with Rachel Aiden, the CEO of Synthesis Institute, a Dutch company with US subsidiaries that provides psychedelic retreats and trainings.

“As my life continues to change, with more relationships taking shape, I am mindful of appearances. I do not want anything to distract from the earnest work of this Advisory Board,” Eckert wrote in his resignation letter, as reported by Oregon Live.

Remarking on the conflict-of-interest issue in late February in an email that was obtained by public records request, advisory board member Dr Rachel Knox wrote:

“I understand ‘personal conflicts’ aren’t boilerplate or commonplace, but I think it’s pretty clear that the resounding call for declarations was indeed a call to address rumors that the chair of our board had a personal relationship with the highest ranking executive of a prominent organization preparing to become an Oregon enterprise within psilocybin services,” as reported by Oregon Live.

Eckert is also the program director of InnerTrek, a company that aims to train psilocybin therapists in Oregon.

Yet Eckert isn’t the only OPAB member with outsider interests in psilocybin therapy. The vice-chair Angela Carter, for instance, is an advisor to the Alma Institute, a psychedelics training program. And Stephanie Barss is a certificate program advisor at Fluence, another psychedelics training program in Oregon.

The state’s legal psilocybin therapy initiative is set to begin in January 2023.

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