Psychedelics Reform Update: Missouri's $10M Budget, Maine's & Maryland's Study Groups, Oregon's Re-Crim And More

Zinger Key Points
  • In the past three weeks, discussion around psychedelics reform has been present in at least twelve states.
  • Proposals span from task force study groups and decriminalization of small amounts to facilitators licensing, plus drugs re-criminalization.

State-level psychedelics policy reform keeps moving forward throughout the U.S. Below is a recap of the moves that took place in the past three weeks (see the previous recap.)

  • Missouri: Controversial budget proposal HB 2010 received final approval by the state's House on April 5, a day after it was reported to the Senate for consideration, where it already had its first read.

One provision of the appropriations bill calls for the funding of psilocybin research, specifically a one-time $10 million deduction from the state's opioid settlements, as a potential treatment for opioid use disorder.

The measure underwent several House amendments, including the later-dismissed possibility of directing research to ibogaine, Marijuana Moment reported.

Separately, SB 768 legalizing psilocybin possession, cultivation and use for veterans suffering from PTSD, major depression, substance use disorders or end-of-life care, has been placed in the Senate's formal calendar for perfection.  

  • Maine: On April 3, the Senate amended and passed LD 1914, legislation that would create a psychedelics commission to explore regulated access in the state. The new body would examine how to create a "legal framework for the therapeutic use of psychedelic drugs, including but not limited to psilocybin" and send those recommendations to the legislature by Nov. 6, 2024.

It would need to develop a "long-term strategic plan for ensuring that psilocybin services will become and remain a safe, accessible, and affordable therapeutic option for all persons who are 21 years of age or older and for whom psilocybin services may be appropriate."

The Senate Veterans and Legal Affairs committee passed the legislation after significantly watering it down from the initial psilocybin legalization for adults at licensed facilities, Marijuana Moment reported. It is now to face the state's House.

  • Maryland: HB 548 establishing a psychedelics task force to study legal access was sent to Gov. Wes Moore's (D) desk on April 4, following Senate counterpart SB 1009 which was unanimously approved by House lawmakers a few days prior. 

Overseen by the state's Cannabis Administration (MCA), the new "Task Force on Responsible Use of Natural Psychedelic Substances" would be charged with ensuring "broad, equitable and affordable access to psychedelic substances." 

Topics that the new task force would have to emit recommendations on include education and safety, access to treatment and regulated support and production of natural psychedelic substances; plus, potentially expunging prior convictions for psychedelics and the release of those incarcerated for such offenses, among additional recommendations on new civil penalties for "nonviolent infractions involving the planting, cultivating, purchasing, transporting, distributing, or possessing of or other engagement with natural psychedelic substances."

Recommendations would be due to the governor and legislature by July 31, 2025, and the legislation would expire after two and a half years.

  • Oregon: On April 1, Gov. Tina Kotek (D) signed bipartisan-supported HB 4002 which, revising voter-approved Measure 110, creates a new misdemeanor for drug possession. 

Paired with SB 5204 which provides new funding for behavioral health and treatment programs, the new legislation essentially rolls back a key portion of Measure 110 and recriminalizes drug possession in the state. 

Measure 110 decriminalized small amounts of hard drugs and made possession punishable by a fine. It also allocated new funding for addiction treatment programs, but that part trailed while fentanyl use spiked statewide.

Gov. Kotek said in a letter following her signature that the bill, paired with its treatment-focused companion, “represents a package that encourages treatment first, while balancing the need for accountability.” 

A person charged with the misdemeanor would now initially face an 18-month probation period, with the possibility of up to 30 days in jail for violating probation or up to six months for more serious violations. Offenders could be released early to attend drug treatment. As for the recriminalization portion, it goes into effect Sept. 1.

The bill also sets a framework for “deflection” programs on a county-by-county basis by choice of local prosecutors and police. If applied, law enforcement would refer people to a behavioral health and treatment program instead of sending them into the court system. 

In the letter, Kotek stated her willingness to address “potential issues regarding implementation” of HB 4002, and that its success would depend on “deep coordination” between law enforcement, courts and community mental health programs.

She further acknowledged the possibility of what critics of the legislation have argued would happen; that is, that the new law would undo the progress made in reducing racial disparities associated with drug enforcement. Nonetheless, she said, the pre-arrest deflection programs “can help mitigate the racial and ethnic disparities this legislation is projected to create.”

Kotek also acknowledged that recriminalization would likely increase the number of defendants lacking legal representation. In this sense, she said she will direct the state’s Criminal Justice Commission to use its authority over the deflection programs to encourage standardization for paperwork and coordination between different law enforcement agencies, and to help forecast the spike in cases HB 4002 is likely to generate, KGW reported.

Meanwhile, Portland's VA Healthcare System opened a psychedelic therapy clinic to treat mental health and substance use disorders. Two clinical trials -psilocybin therapy for veterans with methamphetamine addiction and MDMA group therapy for veterans with PTSD- are underway at the Social Neuroscience & Psychotherapy Lab, with "substantial" contributions by the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation -see hedge fund Point72's prior bets on psychedelics research.

  • Alaska: On April 2, the House State Affairs Committee approved HB 228 creating a state-level psychedelics task force to make recommendations on licensing and regulating psychedelic-assisted therapies in anticipation of federal legalization.

The measure does not change the legal status of any substance. After modifying the task force's originally proposed name -now "The Alaska Task Force for the Regulation of Psychedelic Medicines Approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration"- as well as clarifying its objective, the bill is now to face the chamber's Rules Committee, Marijuana Moment reported.

  • Arizona: SB 1677 providing firefighters and certified peace officers diagnosed with PTSD with workers' compensation coverage including MDMA-assisted therapy passed the state's Senate and moved to the House on March 14, where after an amendment it passed first the MAPS committee and the Rules committee thereafter. On March 26, it passed the House's majority and minority caucus and, on April 3, the committee of the Whole action voted for an additional amendment. 

Among the new conditions that must be met for workers' compensation coverage to potentially include one (1) course of a treatment protocol are that "an independent medical examination reveals a treatment protocol of methylenedioxymethamphetamine-assisted therapy (MDMA-AT) is deemed a reasonable and necessary treatment" and that "the Industrial Commission of Arizona has integrated methylenedioxymethamphetamine-assisted therapy (MDMA-AT) treatment into its treatment guidelines." 

Companion House bill HB 2274 was transmitted to the Senate back in February, where it was read twice only to be amended at the Government committee on March 21, where it was essentially transformed into another bill that now stands at the Rules Committee for voting on its properness for consideration.

  • Massachusetts: Democrat-led companion bills S 1009 and H 1754 legalizing adult possession, growing, gifting, transportation and use of up to two grams of psilocybin, psilocin, DMT, ibogaine and mescaline are advancing at different paces. While the former is still awaiting for Senate concurrence with an extended reporting date of April 30, the latter saw Senate concurrence on April 1 and is now to face the Joint Judiciary Committee.

Initiative petition H 4255 regarding regulation and taxation of natural psychedelic substances faced on March 26 a hearing at the Special Joint Committee on Initiative Petitions, where it still stands.

Separately, on March 25 the Special Joint Committee on Initiative Petitions held a hearing on a psychedelics legalization initiative that could appear on next November's ballot should lawmakers decline to independently enact it first. 

As Marijuana Moment reported, regulators took testimony from experts, supporters and opponents of the measure which, spearheaded by the Massachusetts for Mental Health Options (MMHO) campaign, saw its 96,277 valid signatures certified by the Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin's (D) office. 

Renowned researchers in the field testified and provided evidence on psychedelics as potential mental health treatments, including Franklin King and Matthew Johnson.

The signatures represent some 20,000 more than required to force consideration by the legislature. That is, if lawmakers decide not to legalize psychedelics by May 1, activists would then have until July 3 to submit 12,429 additional valid signatures to put the proposal before voters on the November ballot.

The Natural Psychedelic Substances Act would legalize adult possession, growing and sharing of specified amounts of psychedelics, with a civil fine for amount to double the limit and criminalization for higher amounts. 

It would also create a Natural Psychedelic Substances Commission -modeled after the state's Cannabis Control Commission- to oversee the implementation of the law and licensing of service centers and facilitators, enacting rules for regulated access of at least one psychedelic by April 1, 2026, and begin accepting applications by September 30, 2026.

Meanwhile, H 3605 concerning the legal use of psilocybin for therapeutic, spiritual and medicinal purposes and requesting the Department of Public Health establish procedures for granting facilitators licenses received a favorable report from the Public Health Joint Committee and was referred to the also Joint Committee on Health Care Financing on March 25.

Last, H 4172 "Honoring, empowering and recognizing" the state's servicemembers and veterans for which it would create "a public-private working group to study the health benefits of psychedelics as a treatment for veterans suffering physical or mental disorders related to their service" saw Senate concurrence on March 21, and is now pending treatment at the Joint Veterans and Federal Affairs committee.

  • Vermont: Long-standing Democrat-led S 114 calling the state to study psilocybin mushrooms and other psychedelics' potential health benefits has received "strong support" from the Senate during the past two weeks. 

With amendments made by the chamber's Health and Welfare committee, it passed the Senate floor and was sent to the state's House, where it was read for the first time and referred to the Committee on Human Services on March 29.

The bill would create a therapy advisory working group to study the potential benefits of psychedelics -more specifically, entheogens- in physical and mental health. Its original aim to further legalize the use and possession of psilocybin was stripped by lawmakers on the Senate's mentioned committee.

  • Connecticut: HB 5297 decriminalizing possession of up to 1.5 ounces of psilocybin was taken up by the Joint Judiciary Committee, and its substitute proposal was filed with the Legislative Commissioners' Office for approval on March 26. The office then referred it to the Office of Legislative Research and Office of Fiscal Analysis for a decision expected by April 10. 
  • Hawaii: Both House and Senate conferees for Democrat HB 1340 requiring the state's Director of Health "to establish a Temporary Breakthrough Therapy Designation Advisory Council within 3 months of certain breakthrough therapy designation approvals by the FDA" were discharged between March 20 and 25, with the bill's fate yet TBD as the Conference committee reconvenes on April 28.
  • California: SB 1012 originally intending to regulate psychedelic-assisted therapies (PAT) and psychedelic substances has been amended to mainly focus on regulations for psychedelic facilitators on March 20 by the Senate's Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee, where it still sits.

The bill would establish the Board of Regulated Psychedelic Facilitators at the Department of Consumer Affairs to license and regulate psychedelic facilitators (not PAT.) 

Photo: Benzinga edit with photo by Alexander_Volkov and canbedone on Shutterstock.

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