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Arizona Psilocybin Council To Hold First Meeting This Week As Officials Prepare To Distribute $5 Million In Research Grants



An Arizona Psilocybin Research Advisory Council will meet for the first time on Tuesday to start the process of providing millions of dollars in grant funding to support research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelic mushrooms.

The council—which was established under the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) as part of large-scale budget legislation that the governor signed in May—is meeting about a month before officials plan to open an application period for potential grant recipients.

The legislature has appropriated $5 million for psilocybin research, focused on clinical trials that are meant to identify therapeutic applications that could receive federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for the treatment of 13 listed conditions—including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, long COVID symptoms and substance misuse disorder.

John Garcia, program director of the Arizona Biomedical Research Centre (ABRC) under ADHS, said in a notice last week that the division plans to begin soliciting grant applications in approximately one month.

“Any clinical trials that are funded pursuant to this announcement and subsequent grant solicitation shall prioritize: using whole mushroom psilocybin cultivated under a Schedule I license for research, issued by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration; and using veterans, first responders, frontline health care workers and persons from underserved communities as the research subjects,” he said.

At Tuesday’s meetings, the council will consider the timeline for grant application approvals, the scope of services for psilocybin clinical trials and administrative items such as filling vacancies on an advisory committee.

The function of the council is to “establish criteria for the clinical trials that qualify to receive research grants; oversee the application process and review applications for the clinical trial research grants; to assist the director in selecting the most credible clinical trials to award the research grants; and ensure that all advisory council meetings are open to the public and to allow for public testimony,” Garcia’s notice says.

A group of peer reviewers must consider research grant applications and submit their recommendations to the council by February 1, 2024.

Members of the council include an ADHS official, a Maricopa County Attorney’s Office representative, a U.S. Army veteran and an academic researcher. The body must still appoint a physician registered to study Schedule I substances with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

“Funding is provided through a competitive grant process to accelerate promising research toward clinical testing and breakthroughs designed to improve the health of Arizonans,” ABRC said. “While ABRC’s strong emphasis is on funding basic and translational research projects to generate preliminary data, ABRC continues to seek innovative projects that leverage all of Arizona’s resources and strengthen collaboration.”

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Numerous lawmakers and activists in states across the U.S. have been pursuing psychedelics reform this year, particularly measures that focus on research and therapeutic use.

For example, a Minnesota psychedelics task force charged with studying the medical benefits of psilocybin, MDMA and LSD and preparing the state for possible legalization convened for its first meeting this month, at which members selected a chairperson and laid out the trajectory of the coming months.

The governor of Massachusetts recently filed a bill to create a psychedelics working group to study and make recommendations about the potential therapeutic benefits of substances like psilocybin and MDMA for military veterans.

In May, the governor of Washington State signed a bill to promote research into psilocybin and create a pilot program to provide therapeutic access to the psychedelic for mental health treatment.

At the federal level, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is soliciting proposals to develop psychedelics into treatments for substance use disorder (SUD), with plans to issue $2 million in grant money toward the research projects during fiscal year 2025.

House lawmakers met for a first-ever congressional hearing on psychedelics this month, with lawmakers and witnesses focusing on how substances like psilocybin and MDMA can aid therapy for military veterans’ facing mental health challenges.

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Image courtesy of Kristie Gianopulos.

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