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Alaska House Panel Advances Proposal To Create A Psychedelics Task Force In Anticipation Of Federal Legalization



A House committee in Alaska has advanced a bill that would create a state task force to study how to license and regulate psychedelic-assisted therapy—a plan supporters say will help prepare the state for federal approval of substances such as MDMA and psilocybin.

At a hearing Tuesday, members of the House Military and Veterans Affairs Committee agreed to advance the measure with individual recommendations.

If it becomes law, the proposal, HB 228, would not itself change the legal status of any drugs. Rather, it would create a legislative task force that would spend the rest of 2024 studying how to license and regulate psychedelic therapy in Alaska. A report from the group with recommendations would be due on or before December 31, 2024.

Both MDMA and psilocybin have been granted breakthrough therapy status by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and recent clinical trials have MDMA on pace for possible FDA approval later this year.

Before advancing the bill, members of the House panel adopted amendments to bring the bill into alignment with its Senate companion, SB 166, which has already passed out of one committee in that chamber and had another committee hearing late last month.

Sponsors filed the legislation in both chambers in January.

Tuesday’s changes adopted in committee make the task force a legislative group rather than an executive one—an adjustment designed to reduce the proposal’s fiscal note to zero—and add a member to the task force representing psychiatric nurse practitioners.

Also, rather than have the task force elect a chair itself, the latest version of the bill says that the members appointed by the president of the Senate and speaker of the House of Representatives would by default serve as the group’s co-chairs.

An attached fiscal note indicates that the revised policy change would create no additional cost for the state.

The sponsor of the House bill, Rep. Jennie Armstrong (D), told colleagues last month that despite the measure’s subject matter potentially sounding “quite provocative, I think you’ll find this is actually a pretty staid bill.”

“What we’re proposing here is basically the most conservative thing,” she said, noting that pointing out that some other states, such as Oregon and Colorado, that have already legalized therapeutic psychedelic use at the state level and begun undertaking licensing.

Under the Alaska bill, by contrast, “the policy recommendations that would be brought forth [from the task force] would only be enacted if and when FDA approves these medicines for prescription,” Armstrong said at the time.

Alaskans generally support reforms to policies around psychedelics, especially with regard to mental health. Just under half (49.4 percent) of those surveyed in a recent poll said they favor broadly removing criminal penalties around substances such as psilocybin mushrooms. When respondents were told that Alaska has particularly high rates of mental illnesses that could potentially be treated with psychedelics, however, support for the reform rose to 65 percent.

Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,000 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.

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“It’s inspiring to see such a positive shift in how people view the use of these plant medicines,” said the Alaska Entheogenic Awareness Council (AKEAC), an advocacy group that published the new poll. “More people are recognizing the value of these substances in addressing certain mental health conditions.”

That’s true not only in Alaska but across the country. A growing number of states are pursuing psychedelics reform legislation this legislative session, with a focus on research and therapeutic access.

For example, a Missouri House committee this week unanimously approved a bill to legalize the medical use of psilocybin by military veterans and fund studies exploring the therapeutic potential of the psychedelic.

Last week, a Vermont legislative panel continued its consideration last week of a bill that would legalize psilocybin in the state and establish a work group on how to further regulate psychedelics for therapeutic use. And the Senate in Arizona passed a bipartisan bill that would legalize psilocybin service centers where people could receive the psychedelic in a medically supervised setting.

The governor of New Mexico also recently 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.

The Connecticut legislature’s joint Judiciary Committee filed a bill to decriminalize psilocybin.

An Illinois senator recently introduced a bill to legalize psilocybin and allow regulated access at service centers in the state where adults could use the psychedelic in a supervised setting—with plans to expand the program to include mescaline, ibogaine and DMT.

Lawmakers in Hawaii are also continuing to advance a bill that would provide some legal protections to patients engaging in psilocybin-assisted therapy with a medical professional’s approval.

New York lawmakers also said that a bill to legalize psilocybin-assisted therapy in that state has a “real chance” of passing this year.

An Indiana House committee, meanwhile, approved a Republican-led bill last week that would fund clinical research trials into psilocybin that has already cleared the full Senate.

Bipartisan California lawmakers also recently introduced a bill to legalize psychedelic service centers where adults 21 and older could access psilocybin, MDMA, mescaline and DMT in a supervised environment with trained facilitators.

A Nevada joint legislative committee held a hearing with expert and public testimony on the therapeutic potential of substances like psilocybin in January. Law enforcement representatives also shared their concerns around legalization—but there was notable acknowledgement that some reforms should be enacted, including possible rescheduling.

The governor of Massachusetts recently promoted the testimony of activists who spoke in favor of her veterans-focused bill that would, in part, create a psychedelics work group to study the therapeutic potential of substances such as psilocybin.

Missouri Lawmakers Approve Bill To Legalize Psilocybin Therapy For Veterans

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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