Connecticut lawmakers sent the governor a large-scale budget bill on Tuesday that includes provisions to set the state up to provide certain patients with access to psychedelic-assisted treatment using substances like MDMA and psilocybin.
The language largely mirrors a standalone bill that moved through committee earlier this session. However, the budget legislation is more limited with respect to who would be eligible for the treatment option compared to the standalone proposal.
The budget measure cleared the House on Monday and then passed the Senate on Tuesday. It now heads to the governor.
Under both the budget bill and HB 5396, psychedelic treatment centers would be established in the state where people could receive psilocybin-assisted or MDMA-assisted therapy as part of an expanded access program for investigational new drugs through the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
While the legislation would not legalize the psychedelics, it would set up a regulatory infrastructure to enable Connecticut to play a leading role in providing access to this alternative treatment option as federal agencies continue to fund and facilitate clinical trials.
Psychedelic therapy would be specifically provided and funded for military veterans, retired first responders and health care workers under the budget measure.
The standalone bill, meanwhile, was more expansive by also including any person from a “historically underserved community, and who has a serious or life-threatening mental or behavioral health disorder and without access to effective mental or behavioral health medication.”
Gov. Ned Lamont (D) signed a separate bill last year that includes language requiring the state to carry out a study into the therapeutic potential of psilocybin mushrooms. A workgroup has since been meeting to investigate the issue.
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The new budget measure approved by the legislature, as well as the standalone bill, would require the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services to launch a “psychedelic-assisted therapy pilot program to provide qualified patients with the funding” to receive MDMA or psilocybin therapy as part of FDA’s expanded access program.
The pilot program would cease “when MDMA and psilocybin have been approved to have a medical use by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), or any successor agency.” At that point, state statute on the substances would be aligned with the federal government’s.
The legislation would further establish a Qualified Patients for Approved Treatment Sites Fund to provide “grants to qualified applicants to provide MDMA-assisted or psilocybin assisted therapy to qualified patients under the pilot program.”
Another difference between the newly passed budget measure and the earlier standalone bill is that the latter called for $3 million to be appropriated to the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services from the general fund to facilitate the treatment centers, whereas the former simply provides funding “within available appropriations.”
Both measures would further create a Connecticut Psychedelic Treatment Advisory Board under the department. Legislative leaders and the governor would be empowered to appoint members of the board.
The board would be tasked with making recommendation on the “design and development of the regulations and infrastructure necessary to safely allow for therapeutic access to psychedelic-assisted therapy upon the legalization of MDMA, psilocybin and any other psychedelic compounds.”
There would be seven key areas that the board would be responsible for advising the department on:
- Reviewing and considering the data from the psychedelic-assisted therapy pilot program…to inform the development of such regulations
- Advising the department on the necessary education, training, licensing and credentialing of therapists and facilitators, patient safety, harm reduction, the establishment of equity measures in both clinical and therapeutic settings, cost and insurance reimbursement considerations and standards of treatment facilities
- Advising the department on the use of group therapy and other therapy options to reduce cost and maximize public health benefits from psychedelic treatments
- Monitoring updated federal regulations and guidelines for referral and consideration by the state agencies of cognizance for implementation of such regulations and guidelines.
- Developing a long-term strategic plan to improve mental health care through the use of psychedelic treatment.
- Recommending equity measures for clinical subject recruitment and facilitator training recruitment
- Assisting with the development of public awareness and education campaigns.
Also in Connecticut, regulators recently began accepting certain marijuana business license applications as part of the recreational cannabis law that Lamont signed last year.
Meanwhile, the state’s Social Equity Council approved a list of geographic areas disproportionately impacted by the drug war, which will be used to determine eligibility for social equity business licenses. Under the state’s new cannabis program, half of all licenses must go to equity applicants, who may also qualify for lower licensing fees, technical assistance, workforce training and funding to cover startup costs.
Last year, Lamont also announced the launch of a new website to provide residents with up-to-date information on the state’s new marijuana legalization law.
As it stands, adults 21 and older are already able to possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis for personal use.
In the psychedelics space, reform is advancing in states across the country.
For example, the Colorado Senate approved a House-passed bill last week to align state statute to legalize MDMA prescriptions if and when the federal government ultimately permits such use, sending the measure to the governor.
Maryland lawmakers recently sent a bill to the governor that would create a state fund to provide “cost-free” access to psychedelics like psilocybin, MDMA and ketamine for military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury.
The Maine Senate approved a bill last month to to create a medical psilocybin program in the state, but the House of Representatives refused to go along.
Also last month, Georgia lawmakers advanced a bipartisan resolution that calls for the formation of a House study committee to investigate the therapeutic potential of psychedelics like psilocybin and make recommendations for reforms.
The governor of Utah signed a bill in March to create a task force to study and make recommendations on the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs and possible regulations for their lawful use.
A Missouri House committee also held a hearing that month on a GOP-led bill to legalize a wide range of psychedelics for therapeutic use at designated care facilities while further decriminalizing low-level possession in general.
The Washington State legislature recently sent a budget bill to the governor’s desk that includes a proposal to direct $200,000 in funding to support a new workgroup to study the possibility of legalizing psilocybin services in the state, including the idea of using current marijuana regulatory systems to track psychedelic mushrooms.
In March, the Hawaii Senate approved a bill to set up a state working group to study the therapeutic benefits of psilocybin mushrooms and develop a “long-term” plan to ensure that the psychedelic is accessible for medical use for adults 21 and older.
Also that month, the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed a bill to decriminalize low-level possession of psilocybin and promote research into the therapeutic potential of the psychedelic.
Rhode Island lawmakers introduced a pair of drug decriminalization bills in March—including one focused on psilocybin and buprenorphine that would authorize doctors to prescribe the psychedelic mushroom.
An Oregon Senate committee also recently advanced a bill to ensure that equity is built into the state’s historic therapeutic psilocybin program that’s actively being implemented following voter approval in 2020.
A bill to decriminalize a wide array of psychedelics in Virginia was taken up by a House of Delegates panel in January, only to be pushed off until 2023. A separate Senate proposal to decriminalize psilocybin alone was later defeated in a key committee.
California Sen. Scott Wiener (D) told Marijuana Moment in a recent interview that his bill to legalize psychedelics possession stands a 50/50 chance of reaching the governor’s desk this year. It already cleared the full Senate and two Assembly committees during the first half of the two-year session.
Washington State lawmakers also introduced legislation in January that would legalize what the bill calls “supported psilocybin experiences” by adults 21 and older.
Meanwhile, a Pennsylvania bill meant to promote research into the therapeutic potential of psilocybin mushrooms for certain mental health conditions may be in jeopardy, with the sponsor saying that the chair of a key House committee is expressing reservations even after the legislation was amended in an effort to build support.
New Hampshire lawmakers filed measures to decriminalize psilocybin and all drugs.
Legislation was also enacted by the Texas legislature last year requiring the state to study the medical risks and benefits of psilocybin, MDMA and ketamine for military veterans in partnership with Baylor College of Medicine and a military-focused medical center.
At the congressional level, bipartisan lawmakers sent a letter to DEA in January, urging that the agency allow terminally ill patients to use psilocybin as an investigational treatment without the fear of federal prosecution.
Photo courtesy of Dick Culbert.