Legislators are becoming increasingly open to the possibility of psychedelics’ therapeutic abilities.
2023 has already shown extensive advances in the realm of psychedelic policy reform. About a dozen states in the US have put forward legislation that would see multiple psychedelic substances from ketamine, MDMA, psilocybin, and more receive downgraded criminalization designations.
In addition, lawmakers are as open as ever to the idea of psychedelics’ therapeutic potential. Special task forces or state-sponsored research bodies have been created or are set to be voted on which would seek to properly educate voters and state governing bodies on the possibilities associated with psychedelic therapy.
Hawaiians may see new council formed, investigating psychedelic therapy potential
Hawaii has already been busy this year with their own legislative agenda regarding an approach to psychedelic medicine. With direct support from the Governor’s office, two new psychedelic research bills have been unanimously approved by Hawaii’s Senate Ways & Means Committee. This new bill is separate yet companioned to SB 1454, put forward by Sen. Ron Kouchi (D) earlier in 2023.
After moving through another panel earlier this February, SB 1531 will head to the senate floor for a formal vote. It is sponsored by Sen. Chris Lee (D) and is focused on creating a “Beneficial Treatments Advisory Committee”.
The committee would explore both state and federal regulations associated with certain psychedelics, along with existing scientific research describing their effects for various mental health treatments. According to the proposal, the council would be required to develop a “long-term strategic plan to ensure the availability of therapeutic psilocybin, psilocybin-based products, and [MDMA] that are safe, accessible, and affordable for adults twenty—one years of age or older.”
It would be overseen by Hawaii’s Office of Wellness & Resiliency, which has stated “research being conducted on use of alternative therapies to treat mental health disorders has shown promising outcomes… Having the discussion in our state will assist in making data informed decisions on how we should address and resource attention on complex social issues, like mental health. This advisory council can provide an ongoing venue to have the continuous conversation so when new therapies become known, the review of literature can occur through this mechanism and issues don’t go unaddressed.”
Interesting psychedelic policy initiatives coming to several states across the US
Colorado has been a trailblazer for cannabis and psychedelic policy alike, as they were the first state to legalize recreational marijuana use and Denver was one of the first cities in the country to actually decriminalize psilocybin.
While not exactly psychedelic policy, an important bill is brewing in Colorado’s state legislature. It would allow cities throughout the state to institute “overdose prevention centers”, similar to those seen in Europe, where citizens could use drugs regardless of their legality in a medically supervised environment. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Elisabeth Epps (D) and would allow for more individuals to access and receive treatment resources for drug addiction.
Titled the “Local Control of Life-saving Overdose Prevention Centers Act”, it would provide people with “access to sterile consumption equipment, fentanyl testing tools, counseling, substance use treatment referrals and other harm reduction services.”
Another state re-thinking the legal implications of personal use possession of psilocybin is Connecticut. Its House Judiciary Committee now has legislation in the works that would decriminalize possession of psilocybin mushrooms.
This applies to any amount under one-half ounce, and would see the penalty for such possession reduced to a civil fine of $150 for a first offense. Subsequent offences would see the fine raised up to $500.
Should the bill be ratified and pass, it would go into effect starting October 1st, 2023.
Senator Rachel Ventura (D) has put forward a bill that would require Illinois’s Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (DFPR) to “authorize the distribution of, and make publicly available, psilocybin for medical, psychological, and scientific studies, research, and other information.”
This follows most other states seeking psychedelic legislation as they look to put in place a system for safe and regulated distribution of psilocybin for medical purposes, rather than decriminalize the substance(s) altogether.
The bill also summarizes that researchers would analyze the “safety and efficacy of psilocybin and other entheogens to treat mental health conditions, including, but not limited to, addiction, depression, anxiety disorders, headache disorders, and end-of-life psychological distress.”
Psilocybin would remain a Schedule I drug under the state’s drug code, but it would be amended to create the psilocybin exceptions for DFPR and researchers.
Read more about Illinois psychedelic policy in 2023: Illinois Lawmaker Seeks Legalization of Psychedelic Mushrooms
Stay tuned for its success, as it has been filed more as a first step to initiate conversations around psychedelic policy in Iowa more so than a realistic chance for immediate decriminalization.
Another state with decriminalization in mind- Maryland delegates Sheila Ruth (D) and David Moon (D) recently filed a bill aimed at reducing the punishment for psilocybin possession.
Possession of “de minimus”, or amounts constituting personal use, would only see a civil punishment in the form of a $100 fine as opposed to current laws which treat similar offenses as a criminal misdemeanor.
According to the bill, minimum possession amounts for specific controlled substances would be “100 milligrams of cocaine, 65 milligrams of cocaine base (or crack cocaine), 60 milligrams of heroin, 200 milligrams (or two tablets) of MDMA, two units of LSD, two units of methadone, 60 milligrams of methamphetamine and two tables of hydrocodone or oxycodone.”
People under 21 who are found in possession of low amounts of illicit substances could be referred to a drug education program approved by the state health department for assessments or treatment.
“A court that orders a person to a drug education program or substance use or mental health assessment or treatment…may hold the case sub curia pending receipt of proof of completion of the program, assessment, or treatment,” the bill text says.
A public hearing has just been completed on February 28 in the state of Missouri regarding HB 1154.
Sponsored by Rep. Dan Houx (R), the bill would initiate a research partnership between Missouri’s Department of Health and Human Services and a (to be determined) U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital. The goal of the proposed partnership would be to study the “efficacy of using alternative medicine and therapies,” including MDMA, psilocybin and ketamine.”
Specifically, the researchers would need to explore the potential therapeutic benefits of the psychedelics on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), severe depression, substance misuse disorder and people in end-of-life care.
Back in January, fellow Republican lawmaker in the state Rep. Tony Lovasco (R) filed a bill that would provide therapeutic access to psilocybin for people with serious mental health conditions.
Another psychedelic advisory committee has been proposed, this time in New Mexico.
The legislation, proposed by Rep. Christine Trujillo (D), would establish an official “Psilocybin Advisory Group” to be appointed by the Governor. It would consist of eight members and be responsible for examining the feasibility of creating a mental health focused psilocybin therapy program in New Mexico. The group would also make recommendations for how to best create such a program.
Members would specifically need to consider policies around psilocybin cultivation, manufacturing and dispensing, as well as “treatment guidelines for the use of psilocybin-derived products to treat certain mental health issues, including patient selection and provider training and certification.”
Interim reports would be due to legislative committees of jurisdiction by November 1, 2023 and November 1, 2024.
“The psilocybin advisory group shall issue its final report to the governor, the legislative health and human services committee, the legislative finance committee and the legislature by December 1, 2025, including its findings and recommendations for legislative action or policy changes,” the bill text says.
Similar to recent developments in Colorado, the New Mexico House Health and Human Services Committee approved a bill this week that would create a state-run program for safe drug consumption sites where people could use currently illicit drugs in a medically supervised environment and receive treatment resources.
A combination of two popular policy reforms, New York lawmakers recently filed multiple bills to widely decriminalize personal use drug possession AND fully legalize psilocybin therapy for patients with qualifying medical conditions.
The decriminalization legislation comes from Assembly member Demond Meeks (D) and would eliminate criminal and civil penalties for drug possession. In addition, it would create a task force (another one!) responsible for studying and providing recommendations about additional reforms related to drug policy.
A person who commits a simple possession violation would no longer face a misdemeanor conviction; instead, they could either pay a $50 fine or participate in a “needs screening to identify health and other service needs, including but not limited to services that may address any problematic substance use and mental health conditions, lack of employment, housing, or food, and any need for civil legal services.”
Regarding the psilocybin portion of the proposal, individuals could “receive psilocybin treatment from a certified facilitator in a clinical setting, or at their home if they’re unable to travel. Patients and facilitators would receive protections against state-level prosecution.” More details would need to be stipulated related to determining what constitutes approved psychedelic therapy practices.
A Psilocybin Assisted Therapy (PAT) grant program would be established to “provide veterans, first responders, retired first responders, and low-income individuals with the funding necessary to receive psilocybin and/or MDMA assisted therapy.”
According to Sen. Pat Burke’s recent twitter post, “This country is facing a mental health crisis. I am looking at all options to alleviate the pain so many are feeling. Breakthrough medicines like psilocybin are showing tremendous benefit. I carry the bill to legalize psilocybin therapy. Let's get it done!”
Another combination of decriminalization and research initiatives, Vermont Rep. Joseph Troiano (D) has filed a bill that would 1) remove criminal penalties for possessing, dispensing, or selling psilocybin and 2) establish a novel “Psychedelic Therapy Advisory Working Group” to study the therapeutic potential of various psychedelic substances.
The group would “examine the use of psychedelics to improve physical and mental health and to make recommendations regarding the establishment of a state program similar to Connecticut, Colorado, or Oregon to permit health care providers to administer psychedelics in a therapeutic setting,” the legislation states.
The findings section of the bill details the results of several studies, including one showing “substantial antidepressant effects of psilocybin-assisted therapy.”
Read more about recent psychedelic policy initiatives: