Lawmakers in more than a dozen states have introduced legislation to legalize the therapeutic use of psilocybin or otherwise reform policies surrounding the regulation of psychedelics.
The movement to reform psychedelics policy is poised to take new strides in the new year as lawmakers in more than a dozen states have already introduced legislation to reform policies governing psychedelics. Proposals range from legalizing the therapeutic use of psilocybin, the primary psychoactive compound in magic mushrooms, to more comprehensive measures that decriminalize natural psychedelic plants and fungi for all adults. The new legislation follows the success of psychedelic reform measures at the ballot box in Oregon in 2020 and Colorado last year, milestones that set the stage for further progress on the issue in 2023.
In California, Sen. Scott Weiner has reintroduced a bill to legalize psychedelics that failed to gain the approval of his colleagues in the state legislature last year. Under the new version of the measure, Senate Bill 58, the possession and use of natural psychedelics such as psilocybin, psilocyn, DMT, ibogaine, and mescaline for personal or therapeutic use would be decriminalized. In a change from last year’s version of the legislation, Weiner’s new bill does not legalize synthetic psychedelic compounds such as LSD and MDMA. The bill also repeals state laws prohibiting “any spores or mycelium capable of producing mushrooms or other material which contain psilocybin or psilocyn.”
With an ever-increasing number of scientific studies showing that psychedelics such as psilocybin have the potential to treat a range of mental health conditions including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Weiner says that support for reform is strong among voters.
“This is not controversial among regular people,” Wiener said in a recent phone interview with Marijuana Moment. “People understand that psychedelics are not causing problems—and they are, in fact, helping people and so it’s time to stop criminalizing them.”
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In Connecticut, Rep. David Michel filed placeholder legislation in early January to legalize “the use of psilocybin for medicinal and therapeutic purposes, including, but not limited to, the provision of physical, mental or behavioral health care,” although the full text of the measure has not yet been released. Michel said last month that he is also working on a separate psychedelics decriminalization bill with fellow Democratic Rep. Josh Elliott.
“Decriminalizing will help end the targeting of certain communities,” Michel said, “and authorizing psilocybin for medical and therapeutic use, I believe, is key when mental health is at an all-time low.”
The new bills follow Connecticut’s approval of legislation to establish psychedelic treatment centers that was included as part of a comprehensive budget bill last year. Although the bill does not legalize psychedelics, it provides a regulatory framework for the state to offer access to alternative therapies while research into the medical value of psilocybin and other psychedelics continues.
Several psychedelic reform bills have been introduced in Hawaii for the 2023 legislative session, including Senate Bill 154 from Democratic Sen. Ron Kouchi. His bill would establish a therapeutic psilocybin working group to study the “medicinal and therapeutic effects of psilocybin or psilocybin-based products” for conditions such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD. A similar resolution from Sen. Stanley Chang would create a medicinal psilocybin working group to study federal, state, and local legislation on psychedelic plants and to review scientific research on entheogenic plants and fungi. A third bill from Democratic Rep. Adrian Tam would create a “beneficial treatments advisory council” that would be required to “review, evaluate, and recommend new medicinal treatments for mental health” such as psilocybin and MDMA.
In January, Illinois state Rep. La Shawn Ford introduced the Compassionate Use and Research of Entheogens (CURE) Act, which would legalize psychedelics including psilocybin for therapeutic use. House Bill 1, which Ford unveiled on the opening day of Illinois’ new legislative session on January 11, would create a regulated psychedelic therapy program that would be overseen by an advisory committee. The measure also removes the criminal penalties for the personal use of psilocybin, a provision Ford said in a statement was needed to protect patients and providers. Ford noted that while existing criminal prohibitions on the drugs are rarely enforced, “formally removing them ensures that patients won’t be turned into criminals simply for seeking health, healing and wellness.” The measure also includes provisions to expunge convictions of past psilocybin-related convictions.
“I’ve been seeing more and more legitimate scientific evidence, including information coming from the FDA, showing that psychedelic therapy is not only safe, but also very effective, particularly for the toughest patients for whom other treatments have not worked,” Ford said in a press release about the legislation. “At the same time, I am also hearing from patients and from their medical providers, that Illinoisans should have access to these exciting new treatment options.”
In Iowa, Republican state Rep. Jeff Shipley has reintroduced a bill, House File 240, he sponsored in 2021 that would remove psilocybin from the state’s list of Schedule 1 controlled substances. Two years ago, the legislation was considered by a legislative committee, which declined to advance the bill. Shipley told Marijuana Moment that he is “hoping to schedule a subcommittee for the bill later this month.”
In Massachusetts, Democratic lawmakers Sen. Patricia Jehlen and Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa introduced a bill on February 6 that would legalize the non-commercial possession, cultivation, and distribution of psychedelics including psilocybin, dimethyltryptamine, ibogaine, and mescaline.
Minnesota Democratic Rep. Andy Smith announced on social media on January 6 that he is “currently working on a bill forming a psychedelic medicine task force so Minnesotans can have access to these life affirming treatments,” although the text of the measure has not yet been published.
“For decades scientific research into the positive effects of psychedelic medicine has been muzzled by the “war on drugs,” but that is staring to change,” Smith wrote on Twitter.
In Missouri, Republican Rep. Tony Lovasco introduced a bill on January 18 to legalize the therapeutic use of psilocybin for people with serious mental health conditions. Under House Bill 869, which is a revised version of a bill Lovasco introduced last year, patients would be able to use psilocybin to treat severe depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, or the mental health effects of a diagnosis for a terminal illness. Psilocybin-assisted therapy would also be available to patients with other conditions for which traditional therapies have not been effective, with regulators’ approval. Although the bill does not legalize psilocybin, it provides an affirmative defense against criminal prosecution for patients who possess up to four grams of the drug for therapeutic use. The measure also provides similar protection for mental health professionals administering psilocybin for therapeutic purposes.
On February 7, Sen. Thompson Rehder introduced separate legislation to facilitate research into the therapeutic potential of “alternative medicine and therapies,” including psilocybin, MDMA, and ketamine to treat PTSD, treatment-resistant depression, substance use disorder, and for patients in hospice care. The measure, Senate Bill 614, directs the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) to conduct the research with the collaboration of a hospital operated by a state university and a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs medical center.
In Montana, two bills to reform the state’s psychedelics statutes are being drafted for 2023. The first bill, which would legalize psilocybin for treating mental health conditions including PTSD, is currently being drafted by legislative staff after a request was submitted by Democratic state Sen. Jill Cohenour. The second measure, requested by Republican Rep. George Nikolakakos, would authorize an interim study on the use of psilocybin to treat mental illness.
In New Jersey, a bill introduced last year by Senate President Nicholas Scutari has been carried into the 2023 legislative session. If passed, the Psilocybin Behavioral Health Access and Services Act (Senate Bill 2934) would legalize the personal possession, gifting, and home cultivation of psilocybin mushrooms for adults 21 and older. The measure would also create a regulatory platform to license businesses for the therapeutic administration of psilocybin services. A companion version of the bill sponsored by key Democratic lawmakers has also been filed in the New Jersey State Assembly.
Last summer, Scutari said in an interview that the bill is a “wish list” for psilocybin reform. But he acknowledged that some of the measure’s provisions including home cultivation could face opposition from some lawmakers.
“In all reality, we’re going to see a multitude of proposed amendments as we go forward,” Scutari said. “But that’s the good thing about being Senate president. I know my bills are going to get a hearing.”
In the Empire State, Democratic Assemblymember Patrick Burke recently resubmitted a measure to legalize the medical use of psilocybin, provide for the licensing of psychedelic therapy facilitators, and establish a grant program for psilocybin-assisted therapy. The measure, Assembly Bill A3581, has bipartisan support in the New York State Assembly, and a companion measure has been filed in the state Senate. Another bill from Democratic Sen. Nathalia Fernandez would legalize psilocybin therapy for patients with certain specified qualifying conditions in a clinical setting. The legislation, Senate Bill 3520, would also establish a psilocybin-assisted therapy grant program to “provide veterans, first responders, retired first responders, and low income individuals with the funding necessary to receive psilocybin and/or MDMA assisted therapy.”
Democratic Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal has filed a separate psychedelics reform measure, Assembly Bill A114. If passed, the bill would amend New York state law to legalize the “possession, use, cultivation, production, creation, analysis, gifting, exchange, or sharing by or between natural persons of twenty-one years of age or older of a natural plant or fungus-based hallucinogen.” The bill would apply to natural psychedelics including DMT, ibogaine, mescaline, psilocybin, and psilocyn. The legislation also legalizes the use of natural psychedelics for religious purposes and allows people to provide psychedelic services “with or without remuneration.”
In Oklahoma, Rep. Daniel Pae filed a bill in January that would allow universities and affiliated research facilities to study psilocybin’s potential as a treatment for PTSD, traumatic brain injury, early-stage dementia, palliative care, end-of-life care, opioid use disorder, chronic pain, severe depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. The text of the measure specifies, however, that the bill does not decriminalize psilocybin.
On February 10, Utah Democratic Senate Minority Leader Luz Escamilla introduced Senate Bill 200, legislation that would legalize the therapeutic use of psilocybin. Under the measure, adults 21 and older who have been diagnosed with depression, treatment-resistant anxiety, post-traumatic PTSD, or are receiving hospice care could use psilocybin for therapeutic purposes in a clinical setting. Under the bill, the Department of Agriculture and Food would be directed to regulate psilocybin mushroom cultivation facilities, while the Department of Health and Human Services would be responsible for registering “psilocybin medical providers and therapy providers.”
In February, the Virginia state Senate approved a bill that would classify psilocybin as a Schedule 3 controlled substance under state law instead of the more restrictive Schedule 1 classification psychedelic mushrooms are currently listed under. The bill sponsored by Democratic Sen. Ghazala Hashmi, Senate Bill 932, would also create a psilocybin advisory board to “develop a long-term strategic plan for establishing therapeutic access to psilocybin services and monitor and study federal laws, regulations, and policies regarding psilocybin,” according to the text of the measure. A separate bill by Democratic Del. Dawn Adams would allow for the possession of psilocybin for those who have a recommendation from a health professional to treat “refractory depression or post-traumatic stress disorder or to ameliorate end-of-life anxiety.”
In January, West Virginia Democratic state Rep. Kayla Young filed House Bill 2951 that would remove psilocybin, marijuana, and THC from Schedule 1 the state’s list of controlled substances.
An analysis of the legislative environment surrounding psychedelic policy reform published in December by the journal JAMA Psychiatry predicts that a majority of states will legalize psychedelics by 2037. And with psychedelics reform measures already proposed in no less than 15 states, 2023 is shaping up to be a year when significant progress on the issue is made from coast to coast.
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