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State Lawmakers’ Interest in Psychedelic Drugs Not Waning

February 26, 2024 (5 min read)

Just three months after we wrote about states’ slow embrace of psychedelic drugs like psilocybin (the hallucinogen found in magic mushrooms), you’d be forgiven for thinking the issue was petering out.

After all, the effort to decriminalize psychedelics has noticeably struggled in California—the first state to legalize marijuana for medical use—after notching wins in Oregon and Colorado, two other states at the forefront of the marijuana legalization movement.

As we reported in October, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) vetoed legislation that would have decriminalized psychedelics in the Golden State. Then, in early January a proposed California initiative to decriminalize psychedelics failed to qualify for the 2024 ballot when it missed a deadline to submit signatures.

But it appears these setbacks in California may have just been minor bumps in the road, as states from Maine to Arizona and Alaska to Hawaii are all pursuing psilocybin-related legislation this year.

California is back at it too, this time taking a more incremental approach to the issue.

Some States Looking to Study Therapeutic Use of Psychedelics

According to LexisNexis® State Net® data, more than 70 bills dealing with psilocybin have been introduced in 26 states since Dec. 1. Some are more ambitious than others, but they all reflect a growing acceptance of the potential medicinal value of psychedelic drugs.

“This is in no way fringe science,” Dr. Richard Feldman, a family physician and a former state health commissioner, told the Indianapolis Star in a January 17 story about Indiana’s SB 139, which would establish a “therapeutic psilocybin research fund” to be administered by the Indiana Department of Health to help pay for studies of psilocybin’s value in treating mental health and other medical conditions.

Arizona’s HB 2105 seeks to extend the deadline on that state’s program to research psilocybin. 

Maryland HB 548 would create the “Task Force on Responsible Use of Natural Psychedelic Substances” to study psychedelics and make recommendations to state leaders about them by mid-December 2025. 

In Alaska, companion measures SB 166 and HB 228 would also establish a task force to study psychedelic medicine. 

HB 1830 in Missouri would provide for a study on the use of psilocybin to treat depression and substance use or as part of end-of-life care.

Other States Considering Varying Degrees of Decriminalization

Some state lawmakers are advocating for more aggressive action than a study.

In Hawaii, companion measures SB 3019 and HB 2630 would effectively exempt qualified patients and caregivers from state laws against psilocybin, by giving them an affirmative defense for possessing the drug, although not technically legalizing it.

Rhode Island’s HB 7047 seeks to temporarily legalize psilocybin in the Ocean State by removing the penalties for possession, home cultivation and the sharing of magic mushrooms—but only until July 1, 2026.

Before then, the state’s attorney general would need to issue a report on psilocybin violations and the state Department of Health would need to issue a report on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s scheduling and permitted use of the drug.

The Rhode Island bill stops short of creating a commercial retail system for psilocybin (at least until changes are made at the federal level). But it would exempt possession of up to an ounce of psilocybin from the state’s law against controlled substances, so long as the drug has been cultivated for personal use or it’s possessed by one person and shared with another.

“This is about a care option for people, not creating a new industry for the state at the expense of people’s care,” Rep. Brandon Potter (D), the author of HB 7047 told the website Marijuana Moment in January.

Maine’s SB 1914 would permit people 21 years of age and older to use, buy and transport up to two grams of “a psilocybin product or 4 ounces of fungi containing psilocybin.”

In touting the benefits of the bill, its author, Sen. Donna Bailey (D) told CBS affiliate WGME that psilocybin “has the potential to treat people who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, which includes survivors of domestic or sexual abuse and veterans. When compared to the typical selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors that patients take for mental health disorders, psilocybin works rapidly and robustly.” 

Bills Dealing with Psilocybin Pending in 27 States

Legislation referring to the psychedelic drug psilocybin is pending in at least 26 states, according to the LexisNexis State Net legislative tracking system. The New Mexico Senate also adopted a memorial (SM 12) requesting that the state’s department of health conduct a study on the use of psilocybin for therapeutic treatment.

California Taking Another Swing

Despite his veto of legislation to decriminalize psychedelics last year, Gov. Newsom left the door open for more action on the issue in 2024, writing in his veto message: “I urge the legislature to send me legislation next year that includes therapeutic guidelines. I am, additionally, committed to working with the legislature and sponsors of this bill to craft legislation that would authorize permissible uses and consider a framework for potential broader decriminalization in the future, once the impacts, dosing, best practice, and safety guardrails are thoroughly contemplated and put in place.”

California lawmakers apparently took that to heart, introducing a bill (AB 941) this month that would “authorize the lawful use of hallucinogenic or psychedelic substances for psychedelic-assisted therapy” as well as convene a workgroup to study and make recommendations on the establishment of a framework governing psychedelic-assisted therapy.” They are also considering a measure (SB 1012) that would provide for the licensing and regulation of psychedelic-assisted therapy facilitators.

At the same time, an initiative that would create a state agency to regulate psychedelics including psilocybin and LSD, is being circulated for signatures to qualify it for the November ballot.

The initiative, known as the TREAT California Act opens by stating, “We stand on the brink of a transformative moment in the field of mental healthcare, with the power and potential to address some of society’s most daunting challenges, including homelessness, addiction, PTSD, suicide, and beyond.”

It’s a bold statement, but believers in psychedelics, which increasingly includes state lawmakers, think the once-derided drugs may be able to help solve some of our society’s most intractable problems.

—By SNCJ Correspondent BRIAN JOSEPH

Visit our webpage to connect with a LexisNexis® State Net® representative and learn how the State Net legislative and regulatory tracking service can help you identify, track, analyze and report on relevant legislative and regulatory developments. 

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