A Republican Missouri lawmaker says he plans to file a revised psychedelics bill to provide therapeutic access to psilocybin for people with serious mental health conditions in the coming days.
Rep. Tony Lovasco (R) said his forthcoming legislation has been modified from the version he introduced last year, with input from a key committee. That earlier bill received a hearing in the House Health and Mental Health Policy Committee last March, but it did not advance.
In an interview with KMOX radio that aired on Thursday, Lovasco said he didn’t end up pre-filing the bill for the 2023 session because “we had to make some some tweaks from last year,” but he does have draft language and plans to introduce it within “the next week or so.”
He described the bill as narrowly tailored, providing access to psilocybin in a clinical setting for people with treatment-resistant post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, with a doctor’s recommendation. It’s unclear if the legislation will include other psychedelics like mescaline or ibogaine, which were included in the earlier version.
“This isn’t a recreational program. It’s not something that is going to allow this to be sold on your street corner or anything like that,” he said. “We’re looking specifically at the very select groups of people who basically have exhausted other treatment options for their conditions and need just another option that their physician could recommend.”
The lawmaker said that the bill has been revised to include “trigger language,” where the pool of patients eligible for the psychedelic treatment would be expanded if psilocybin is placed in a less restrictive category under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
Lovasco talked about how while there’s still research to be done to better understand the mechanisms that make psilocybin effective for certain mental health conditions, the substance appears to help people process trauma, especially with guidance from a professional.
“It’s a pretty complicated process that I was initially very skeptical of when I was first investigating this,” he said. “But the more I looked into it—the more I talked to people who have been really helped by this—the more I’m convinced that it really is something we need to be doing here in Missouri.”
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Asked about the prospects of convincing skeptical colleagues to advance the reform, Lovasco conceded that it’s “the nature of a lot of folks in politics to kind of maintain the status quo,” and “a lot of people really haven’t taken the time to think about how our laws have gotten the way they are.”
However, he thinks that “most people on the Republican side—when they start really digging into what this drug can do, and specifically what the risks are—they’ll find that there’s no reason for government to be telling patients you just can’t have access to that.”
While Lovasco’s earlier psychedelics bill was not enacted last session, Missouri lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have made clear that they’re interested in at least discussing the possibility of providing a pathway for patient access.
In September, for example, the House Interim Committee on Veterans Mental Health and Suicide held a hearing where they received testimony about the therapeutic potential of psychedelics for military veterans with severe mental health conditions.
Separately, Missouri Rep. Michael Davis (R) has twice filed bills to give residents with serious illnesses legal access to a range of psychedelic drugs like psilocybin, ibogaine and LSD by expanding the state’s Right to Try law.
Meanwhile, Missouri’s voter-approved marijuana legalization law took effect last month, and regulators are preparing to allow recreational sales to begin as early as next months.
When it comes to psychedelics, Missouri isn’t the only state that has taken on the issue in recent years. Oregon voters approved a ballot initiative in 2020 to legalize psilocybin for therapeutic use, and last year Colorado voters passed a broad ballot measure to legalize a wide range of psychedelics for personal use and also create psilocybin “healing centers” in the state.
For 2023, New York lawmakers recently pre-filed a bill to legalize certain psychedelics like psilocybin and ibogaine for adults 21 and older.
In California, state Sen. Scott Wiener (D) recently refiled his own bill to legalize possession of certain psychedelics after his last attempt was derailed in the eleventh hour of the 2022 session.
An analysis published in an American Medical Association journal last month concluded that a majority of states will legalize psychedelics by 2037, based on statistical modeling of policy trends.
Photo courtesy of Dick Culbert.