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Hawaii Lawmakers Approve Senate-Passed Psilocybin Workgroup Resolution In Committee

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A Hawaii House committee on Thursday approved a Senate-passed resolution to request that the state form of a psilocybin working group that would explore the therapeutic potential of the psychedelic.

The Senate concurrent resolution from Sen. Chris Lee (D) cleared the House Health, Human Services and Homelessness Committee in a 5-0 vote. It must move through one additional panel before potentially being considered on the floor.

An identical Senate resolution also passed the chamber last month, but it only applied to the single chamber so it wasn’t transmitted to the House.

Advocates are encouraged to see the legislature take interest in psychedelics policy, but some feel lawmakers should be pursuing bolder reforms. This latest measure to advance is non-binding, simply requesting that the state Department of Health form the psilocybin working group.

“Hawaii should endeavor to work more proactively in creating a climate that is conducive to allowing qualified medical professionals to use psilocybin as a therapeutic tool for those who could benefit from its supervised use,” Nikos Leverenz of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii told the committee in written testimony.

The resolution that’s moving forward was also amended in the Senate to make provisions on developing a plan for patient access contingent on federal approval of the substance.

Meanwhile, the state Senate approved a similar proposal last month in the form of an actual binding bill that directs, rather than merely requests, regulators to create the working group.

The measure has since been referred to several House committees but has not yet been scheduled for any hearings or votes in that chamber, which may explain why senators have moved to advance the less prescriptive resolution as a back-up plan.


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The whereas sections of the measure now advancing in the House states that while there are existing approved medicines, they “do not treat all mental health conditions” and studies “indicate that psilocybin has shown efficacy, tolerability, and safety in the treatment of a variety of mental health conditions, including addiction, depression, anxiety disorders, and end-of-life psychological distress.”

The Senate separately approved non-binding resolutions with similar language and directives last year.

As introduced, the newer resolution that cleared committee on Thursday called for the working group to “develop a long—term strategic plan to ensure the availability of therapeutic psilocybin or psilocybin—based products that are safe, accessible, and affordable for adults twenty—one years of age or older.” But that section was amended in the Senate to make it so the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would first need to act before the state would help facilitate patient access to the psychedelic.

The measure, which request the formation of a Therapeutic Psilocybin Working Group under the state Department of Health, says that “Hawaii has a shortage of mental health professionals, and should actively consider novel, innovative, and safe solutions to treat its citizens.”

The body would be chaired by the head of the Health Department, which submitted written testimony against the resolutions as it moved through the Senate and also ahead of the House committee hearing.

“The Department recognizes that there is potential benefit of this substance and its impact on mental health; however, we are not there yet,” it said. “The studies that have been conducted to date have been small and very controlled. The studies have also paired psychotherapy with the use of this hallucinogen. Lastly, psilocybin is addictive and remains a Schedule 1 drug.”

Under the measure, the task force would be requested to submit a preliminary report with its findings and recommendations within 20 days of the legislature’s 2023 session. And a final report would be due shortly after the start of the 2024 legislative session. As of July 1, 2024, the group would be dissolved under the resolution.

This legislation is just one example of several psilocybin measures pending in Hawaii—including one that’s broader in scope by decriminalizing the substance and requiring the establishment of therapeutic psilocybin treatment centers—that have been introduced in the legislature this session.

The decriminalization measure, which is virtually identical to a bill that was carried over from the 2021 session, would remove psilocybin and psilocyn from the list of controlled substances and require the Department of Health to “establish designated treatment centers for the therapeutic administration of” the psychedelics. It would further create a review panel to study and submit reports on the impacts of the reform to the legislature.

The bill text is the same as the legislation that was carried over in 2021, except that the deadlines that the panel faced to submit their annual reports begins one year later in the new version.

Also last year, the state legislature adopted a resolution that asks the state to seek an exemption from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) stipulating that it is permitted to run its medical cannabis program without federal interference.

Hawaii is just one of numerous states where lawmakers and activists are taking the lead on psychedelics reform this year.

For instance, the Colorado House of Representatives recently approved a bill that would align state statute to legalize MDMA prescriptions if and when the federal government ultimately permits such use, sending it to the Senate.

Maryland lawmakers sent a bill to the governor last week 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.

Also this 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 last month signed a bill 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 last 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.

Connecticut lawmakers are also taking interest in the therapeutic potential of psychedelics, with a legislative committee passing a bill last month that would provide certain patients with access to psychedelic-assisted treatment with substances like MDMA and psilocybin.

Connecticut 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.

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.

Last 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 last month—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 the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in January, urging that the agency allow terminally ill patients to use psilocybin as an investigational treatment without the fear of federal prosecution.

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Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/Mushroom Observer.

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