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Ahead Of Hearing On New Jersey Psilocybin Bill, Majority Of State Residents Back Legalization For Therapeutic Use In New Poll



Ahead of a New Jersey hearing on Thursday on a bill to legalize psilocybin and establish a system of licensed businesses to provide supervised access to the psychedelic, a new survey indicates that a majority of state residents agree with making it available for therapeutic use.

The poll, from Stockton University’s William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy, found that 55 percent of respondents support legalizing psilocybin for medical use with a under doctor’s supervision. Just 20 percent of respondents were opposed, while 24 percent said they weren’t sure. One percent of respondents refused to answer the question.

Younger residents—those between the ages of 18 and 49—as well as Democrats showed higher rates of support.

Despite the majority support for legalization of medical access, more respondents said they had a negative view generally of psychedelic drugs (32 percent) than a positive view (19 percent). Nearly half (47 percent) said they were neutral or had no opinion, and 2 percent weren’t sure.

In terms of personal use, 16 percent of respondents said they’d ever consumed psilocybin or other psychedelic drugs, like LSD or MDMA. Far more—82 percent—said they’d never tried psychedelics, and 2 percent refused the question.

About half (46 percent) said they knew someone who’d used psychedelic drugs, and about half (49 percent) said they didn’t. Four percent weren’t sure, and 1 percent refused the question.

Most respondents (57 percent) also said they would be more likely to support the medical use of psilocybin if medical studies demonstrate it’s safe and effective. But 26 percent said such evidence would be unpersuasive to them. Another 16 percent weren’t sure, and 1 percent refused to answer.

Asked whether they themselves had ever felt the need to be treated for depression, anxiety and/or PTSD, just under a third (30 percent) said they had. Another 69 percent said they hadn’t felt the need for treatment, while 2 percent weren’t sure.

“The Hughes Center aims to be at the forefront of new, and perhaps lesser-known, policy discussions,” Hughes Center Interim Director Alyssa Maurice said in a statement about the findings. “We hope this report adds to the public discourse around this topic and helps New Jersey residents feel more informed.”

Polling took place in February and March of this year and the results were published last week.

The Hughes Center report also included separate findings on the efficacy and safety of psilocybin, noting for example that psilocybin-assisted therapy “has shown significant anti-depressant and anti-anxiety effects that have been replicated across multiple randomized clinical trials.”

Use in a controlled, professionally supervised environment, it adds, “seems to pose minimal risks for physical and psychological harm.”

“Clinical researchers have established safety guidelines to govern the use of psilocybin-assisted therapy,” says a summary of the findings, “which includes a set of criteria that should be used to determine who is a good candidate for this type of treatment, standards for the minimum number of supervisors, proper training and more.”

The new report comes as New Jersey lawmakers prepare to consider a bill, S.2283, that would legalize psilocybin in the state. The state’s Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee is set to have a hearing on the measure Thursday afternoon.

If approved, the legislation from Senate President Nick Scutari (D) and Sen. Joe Vitale (D) would legalize the possession, home cultivation and gifting of psilocybin mushrooms for adults 21 and older while also creating a system of licensed businesses to provide access to psilocybin services in supervised settings.

A companion bill, A.3852, has also been introduced in the Assembly by Assemblymembers Herb Conaway Jr. (D), Clinton Calabrese (D) and Anthony Verrelli (D).

The new measures appear to be identical to legislation filed last session by Scutari and other lawmakers. That bill was heard by the same Senate committee a year ago but did not proceed further.

Under the Senate president’s bill as introduced, the state would move to create psilocybin treatment centers where adults 21 and older could visit to receive the psychedelic therapy.

It would also make it legal for adults to “possess, store, use, ingest, inhale, process, transport, deliver without consideration, or distribute without consideration, four grams or less of psilocybin.”

“It will also not be unlawful for a person over 21 years of age to grow, cultivate, or process plants or fungi capable of producing psilocybin for personal use, or to possess the psilocybin produced if the plants and fungi are kept on the grounds of a private home or residence and are kept secure from access by persons under 21 years of age,” the measure says.

That’s an especially notable provision, as New Jersey’s marijuana laws do not permit adults—or even medical cannabis patients—to grow their own plants for personal use, much to the frustration of reform advocates.

The new measure would significantly expand on legislation Scutari introduced in late 2020 to reduce penalties for possession of up to one ounce of psilocybin that was signed by Gov. Phil Murphy (D) in 2021.

People with convictions for conduct would be made legal under the bill could petition courts for resentencing or expungements.

With respect to the psilocybin services program, the bill lays out basic regulations, including licensing requirements. There would be four license types—product manufacturers, service center operators, testing laboratories and service facilitators—in addition to psilocybin workers permits. The state Department of Health (DOH) would be responsible for overseeing the program and licensing.

There’s also equity built into the proposed licensing system. Manufacturing, service center and testing applicants would be eligible for a “social opportunity program” if they meet the following criteria: an applicant must be at least 51 percent ownership by people who’ve lived in an economically distressed area for five of the past 10 years and have more than 10 full-time employees (with more than half of those workers also living in a low-income area).

DOH would be tasked with developing the social opportunity program in coordination with an 18-member Psilocybin Behavioral Health Access and Services Advisory Board that would be established within the department.

Members of that board would have to include the health commissioner, deputy commissioner for public health services, the state attorney general (or their designees). Those would be ex officio, non-voting members. Additionally, the board would be comprised of a representative of the states Cannabis Regulatory Commission and 12 governor-appointed members with relevant experience.

“The purpose of the board will be to provide advice and recommendations to the DOH, upon request or upon the board’s own initiative, concerning the implementation of the bill,” the text says. Recommendations would be related to issues such as public education, research into the therapeutic potential of psilocybin, guidelines for psychedelic services, health and safety standards and more.

Regarding local control for the psilocybin proposal, the bill says that county or municipal governments “may adopt, by ordinance, reasonable regulations on the operation of psilocybin product manufacturers and psilocybin service centers located within that county or municipality.”

It prevents the creation of local taxes, however, providing that “No county or municipality will be authorized to establish any taxes or fees on the manufacture or sale of psilocybin products or the provision of psilocybin services.”

Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,500 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

Lawmakers in a growing number of other states have also considered psychedelics legislation this session, with many focusing on psilocybin.

In New York, lawmakers last month introduced a bill that would legalize psilocybin for adults so long as they obtain a permit and undergo a health screening and educational course.

The intent of that measure is to promote “the health and well-being of the citizens of the state of New York by establishing a comprehensive framework supporting public health and safety through regulated adult use, support services, and cultivation of psilocybin-containing fungi,” it says.

In February, bicameral New York lawmakers said at a briefing that there’s a “real chance” that legislation to legalize psilocybin-assisted therapy will advance through committee this session, emphasizing that delaying action would “neglect” many “people who need help” with certain mental health conditions.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (D) signed legislation last month to create a psychedelics task force responsible for studying possible regulatory frameworks for therapeutic access to substances such as psilocybin, mescaline and DMT. It would be charged specifically with ensuring “broad, equitable and affordable access to psychedelic substances” in the state.

Vermont’s governor also recently signed into law a measure that would establish a working group to study whether and how to allow therapeutic access to psychedelics in the state. A report from the working group is due to the legislature in November with recommendations on how to regulate the substances.

Indiana also recently adopted a law that includes provisions to fund clinical research trials into psilocybin.

Utah’s governor allowed a bill to authorize a pilot program for hospitals to administer psilocybin and MDMA as an alternative treatment option to become law without his signature.

And in New Mexico, the governor has endorsed a newly enacted resolution requesting that state officials research the therapeutic potential of psilocybin and explore the creation of a regulatory framework to provide access to the psychedelic.

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Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/Workman.

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Ben Adlin, a senior editor at Marijuana Moment, has been covering cannabis and other drug policy issues professionally since 2011. He was previously a senior news editor at Leafly, an associate editor at the Los Angeles Daily Journal and a Coro Fellow in Public Affairs. He lives in Washington State.


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