California's not alone. Florida, Michigan, New York, and more U.S. states may pass psychedelic therapy or decriminalization legislation in 2022, while Canada kicked off the year with more access.
After a decade of progress, 2022 is poised to become another banner year for psychedelic decriminalization and medical access in North America. New laws promoting psychedelic therapy and research are officially in effect in Canada, Texas, and Connecticut. Meanwhile, lawmakers throughout the US have introduced a litany of exciting new legislation.
Here’s an overview of six policy initiatives set to make waves in the year ahead:
Health Canada Grants Special Access to Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy
Late last year, Health Canada reversed a 2013 policy prohibiting access to restricted drugs. The amendment, which went into effect earlier this month, allows healthcare practitioners to request emergency access to psychedelics for severe or life-threatening conditions.
In the past, patients who wanted access to psychedelic-assisted therapy had to apply for an exemption from the federal health minister and wait several months for an answer. Under the new amendment, however, Health Canada must respond to doctor requests within 48 hours.
While only a small subset of the population will benefit from this SAP, it’s a sign things are moving in the right direction.
“We expect that as research using these compounds continues to prove the effectiveness of psychedelic therapies, further regulatory reform is not far around the corner,” says Payton Nyquvest, CEO of Canadian mental health company Numinus Wellness.
California May End Psychedelic Criminalization and Legalize Cultivation
Last year, California state Senator Scott Wiener introduced Senate Bill 519, which would remove all penalties for possession and use of psychedelic substances, and the cultivation of natural psychedelics like psilocybin mushrooms and plant-derived DMT. Additionally, the bill could expunge criminal records for residents with possession convictions.
SB 519 narrowly passed the California Senate and paused in the California State Assembly Appropriations Committee but is eligible to move forward this year.
“Given that this idea had never before been introduced in the Legislature, our progress is a testament to the power of the issue and the urgency of the need to act,” Senator Wiener says. “Decriminalizing psychedelics is an important step in ending the failed War on Drugs, and we are committed to this fight.”
Washington State Lawmakers May Move Forward with Psilocybin Legalization
Legislators in Washington State are considering Senate Bill 5660, which would legalize the “supported use” of psychedelics. In other words, anyone could access psilocybin — with or without a medical diagnosis — at a licensed service center or at home under the guidance of a facilitator.
SB 5660, also called the Washington Psilocybin Services Wellness and Opportunity Act, includes government support for small businesses, disallows employers from discriminating against people who receive psilocybin services, and creates a Social Opportunity program to repair damage caused by the War on Drugs.
“SB 5660 is a novel approach to the supported adult use of psilocybin,” says Mason Marks, Senior Fellow at Harvard Law School. “It will allow clients to receive safe psilocybin products from licensed professionals and create economic opportunities for people statewide.”
Colorado Adds Two Initiatives To Expand Decriminalization and Increase Access
This year, Colorado voters could see two decriminalization proposals on the ballot.
Initiative #49, would prevent local governments from completely banning licensed healing centers and establish a natural medicine advisory board within the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA). The board would oversee licensed healing centers that grow, store, manufacture, distribute, and sell natural medicines. The initiative also expands the definition of “natural remedies” to include psilocybin, mescaline, DMT, and ibogaine.
Initiative #50, would decriminalize psilocybin, psilocin, and any other fungus or plant-controlled substance that “furthers the intent of the purpose of this act.”
“It’s really important to advocate for full decrim first and foremost,” says Nicole Foerster, leader of grassroots organization Decriminalize Nature Boulder County. “If we wait too long to decriminalize or to create equitable access frameworks for psilocybin, then we allow these FDA models to take more control, and they’ll be able to spend more money against groups like us.”
Florida Bill Could Legalize Psilocybin as a Mental Health Treatment
In early 2021, Florida House Representative Michael Grieco introduced Florida Psilocybin Mental Health Care Act via House Bill 193. The bill aims to legalize psilocybin as a treatment for mental illnesses, including depression and anxiety. Under the act, patients struggling with mental health could access microdoses of psilocybin administered by a licensed professional at state-sponsored clinics.
“All this bill does is create a framework for the state to expand potential treatments for mental health,” says Representative Grieco. “Texas is already studying the use of psychedelics in treating mental health, specifically depression and PTSD. In my opinion, we could get even more specific and focus strictly on our veterans, because we have such a significant veteran population in Florida, but it’s a bill that should move.”
HB 549 comes on the heels of Texas House Bill 1802 and Connecticut Senate Bill 1083, which became law last summer. And a similar piece of legislation, New York Assembly Bill A8569, was introduced in December.
Michigan Senators Propose Legalizing Psychedelic Possession and Cultivation
In September, Michigan senators introduced Senate Bill 631, which would legalize possession, cultivation, and delivery of several plant and fungus-derived psychedelics, including psilocybin, mescaline, DMT, and more. The bill does not legalize commercial production and sale, but does allow people to charge a “reasonable fee” for counseling and spiritual guidance in conjunction with psychedelic use.
The bill was referred to the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety. If it passes, SB 631 will move on to consideration by the state senate.
“These substances are relatively safe and not prone to abuse,” says bill co-sponsor Senator Jeff Irwin. “Let’s stop wasting time and money making more victims of the War on Drugs.”