Legalizing Psychedelics From New York To Washington And Five In Between: Which State Will Go First?

Legislators in seven U.S. states are introducing psychedelics bills as they seek to emulate measures that have been approved in Oregon and Colorado

From state-regulated psychedelic therapy programs to the legalization of Schedule I substances, the spectrum is broad. We can only hope that they will bring a good dose of debate to the table.

Illinois: The CURE Act 

  • The new Compassionate Use and Research of Entheogens (CURE) Act would create a state-regulated psychedelic-assisted therapy program for adults over 18.

  • Therapy would be provided by a trained facilitator at a licensed service center.

  • It would remove criminal penalties for psilocybin possession, though it does not allow recreational sales.

See also: Is Illinois Next Up To Decriminalize Psychedelics? Lawmaker Introduces New Bill

Specialized cannabis and psychedelics lawyer Joshua Kappel told Benzinga that the fact that the bill came from the legislature itself and thus holds more details on several matters than bills proposed through the initiative process could bring about a slower process since different interest groups get involved.

He says the way the act defines “compassionate use” of natural entheogens does not necessarily mean it is a non-medical model as both ways can often overlap: “The key piece here is that no diagnosis is required – which is necessary when people are using psychedelics for wellness, as in the case of the responsible adult who microdoses to break their reliance on alcohol or in the case of a veteran seeking psychedelic-assisted therapy outside the confines of federal law.” 

Virginia: Psilocybin Services And Drug Rescheduling

  • The state has two psychedelic reform pieces. 

  • HB 1513 would legalize psilocybin possession for holders of a health professional prescription for the treatment of three conditions (refractory depression, PTSD or end-of-life anxiety) protect doctors and pharmacists distributing the psychedelic from prosecution, and amend state drug laws making non-medical possession of psilocybin a class 2 misdemeanor.

  • SB 932 requests state-level reclassification of psilocybin from Schedule I to Schedule III. It also calls stipulates a new state psilocybin advisory board must develop a long-term strategic plan for establishing therapeutic access to psilocybin services.

Kappel said that considering Virginia’s conservative nature, the “more tailored approach” of delimiting psilocybin use to patients suffering from difficult mental health conditions instead of creating a whole new system seems adequate. 

“Rescheduling to a schedule that requires a prescription and medical supervision is not uncommon for Schedule III substances. Ultimately though, many people use psychedelics for optimizing human wellness, and thus removing psychedelics from being scheduled is the smartest path forward to provide access to all adults who may benefit from these medicines.” 

Washington: A Bipartisan Effort For Legal Psychedelics Therapy

  • SB 5263 or the Psilocybin Services Wellness and Opportunity Act would create legal psilocybin services for state citizens 21 and older to improve general physical, mental, and social well-being and also to help treat behavioral health disorders.

  • No diagnosis or specific medical condition would be required to receive psilocybin services. 

  • Like Virginia’s HB 1513, Washington’s psychedelics legalization would protect psilocybin services providers from criminalization and prohibit penalization of workers lawfully taking psilocybin.

  • The bill’s social opportunity program would promote industry participation by low-income communities, military veterans and indigenous people.

Kappel believes the “wellness and personal growth” approach does not endanger the bill’s chances of passing.

New York: Two Bills Addressing Two Aspects Of Legal Psychedelics

  • The new bill that follows a pre-filed bill legalizing natural psychedelics would create a pilot program of psilocybin-assisted therapy and MDMA-assisted therapy for qualifying New Yorkers. 

  • Considering both bills, “Rep. Burke’s bill is definitely quite thought out and targets a more medicalized approach to this issue,” said Kappel. “Both descheduling and making services available to those who wish to participate in novel therapeutic practices are important pieces of the drug policy reform puzzle. Creating an industry has a different set of interest groups and stakeholders than decriminalizing certain substances. Both bills are going to have to obtain a fair amount of support from relevant, but different, stakeholders to cross the finish line.”   

Connecticut: Doubling The Call For Therapeutic-Medicinal Use 

  • HB 5102 requests legal psilocybin for therapeutic or medicinal purposes “including, but not limited to, the provision of physical, mental or behavioral health care.”

  • The proposal build off last year’s budget bill signed by the state governor including provisions where the state would help provide certain patients with access to psychedelic-assisted treatment.

New Hampshire: Legal Adult Possession & Use, Eyes On The Prize

  • The bill would legalize the possession and use of a list of psychedelics including psilocybin, mescaline, peyote and LSD for adults over 21.

  • The measure mandates that the “possession or use of a hallucinogenic drug by a person 21 years of age or older shall not be an offense” and reduces penalties for LSD manufacturing, sales and possession by people under 21.

  • Kappel told Benzinga that considering psychedelics are not a public health issue, “it’s no surprise that the state couldn’t clearly identify savings.”

Kappel noted the bipartisan bill is a positive move. 

“Both sides of the aisle are rethinking how we regulate substances that have been traditionally classified as Schedule I but now have proven medicinal benefits.” 

Arizona: $30M Grants For Whole Psilocybin Mushroom Research

  • Bipartisan Reps. filed a bill promoting psilocybin research with grants for up to $30 million to be provided over three years time to Phase 1, 2 or 3 clinical trials.

  • Studies must focus on whole mushroom psilocybin’s effects on any of 13 different conditions including PTSD, depression, anxiety, long COVID symptoms and substance misuse disorder.

  • Photo: Benzinga edit with photo by Cburnett on Wikimedia Commons and Octavio Hoyos on Shutterstock.

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Posted In: CannabisGovernmentNewsPsychedelicsRegulationsMarketsJoshua KappelNew York PsychedelicsPsilocybin programPsychedelics Legalization
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