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Indiana Legislative Committee Recommends Launch Of Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy Pilot Program



A study group in Indiana’s legislature is encouraging lawmakers to authorize a psilocybin pilot program to research psychedelic-assisted therapy for mental health in the 2024 session.

A report approved at the final meeting of Indiana’s interim study committee on Public Health, Behavioral Health and Human Services says that while psilocybin is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance at the federal level, the “prevailing view is that psilocybin should not be a Schedule I drug and has proven medical benefits.”

The committee recommended that “the Indiana General Assembly take an approach that strikes a balance between access, research, and prudence.” Specifically, the body advised authorizing state research institutions “to conduct a pilot clinical study utilizing established therapeutic protocols as a starting point to explore the efficacy, safety, and feasibility of psilocybin assisted therapy in Indiana.”

The committee was assigned in June to study a number of topics related to mental health matters, including psychedelic-assisted therapy. Specifically, they were charged with studying alternative treatment options that had been given “breakthrough therapy” status by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and examining policies “enacted and under consideration in other states” that allow psilocybin-assisted therapy “for veterans, first responders, and others experiencing mental illness.”

During last month’s meeting, at which the recommendations were adopted, committee chair Sen. Ed Charbonneau (R) said he’s already been in touch with people at Indiana University Health and Purdue University about psychedelic research.

“I have had discussions with both IU Health and with Purdue University,” he said. “I spoke to 150 pharmacy students at Purdue, and afterward had a chance to speak with the dean of the pharmacy program…and he texted Dr. Jerome Adams, who’s now at Purdue University.”

Adams, a former U.S. surgeon general under then-President Donald Trump, joined Purdue in October 2021, after President Joe Biden asked him to step down. While he’s said little publicly about psychedelic-assisted therapy, he’s previously claimed that “there’s no such thing as medical marijuana.”

“We’ve had a talk,” Charbonneau said of his conversations with the schools. “They’re interested in possibly moving forward, but that’s just a preliminary talk.”

One change made to the draft report was the removal of a line that said psilocybin “is not a drug that is a risk for overdose and is not addictive.” While some members said they believed those statements were factually correct based on their review of scientific literature, others expressed hesitation to issue “such a broad statement like that.”

“I mean, aspirin you can overdose,” one said.

The committee report says that compared to medical marijuana, psilocybin-assisted therapy is “promising and significantly more robust.”

“Many people conflate increased access to psilocybin assisted therapy with the issue of increased access to medical and recreational cannabis,” it says. “However, the committee hearing made it clear that the evidence for psilocybin assisted therapy is promising and significantly more robust and the two issues are unrelated.”

Indiana lawmakers have been considering marijuana legalization but so far have yet to take concrete steps toward the reform in the GOP-controlled legislature. Earlier this month, another interim study group heard testimony around the possibility of decriminalizing simple cannabis possession, but the group did not make any specific recommendations.

In an op-ed for Marijuana Moment, Rep. Blake Johnson (D) wrote last month that Indiana is “falling far behind” on marijuana as its neighboring states legalize. “I implore my fellow legislators to listen to the statistics. It’s time for Indiana to sow the seeds and reap the economic benefits of cannabis,” he wrote.

Earlier this year a supportive lawmaker managed to force a vote on marijuana legalization in the House, but Republican lawmakers rejected the proposal.

Regarding psychedelics, Oregon and Colorado have already passed laws at the state level allowing therapeutic use of psilocybin, and other states are considering similar reforms. In California, for example, a Democratic senator said recently that he’ll be filing a revised psychedelics bill next year alongside an Assembly Republican that will focus on providing regulated therapeutic access to certain psychedelics.

In Massachusetts, Gov. Maura Healy (D) 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. Campaign organizers in the state recently said they believe they’ve collected enough valid signatures to force lawmakers to consider a psychedelics legalization initiative—the first option for the reform before activists move to put it on the state’s 2024 ballot.

Bipartisan lawmakers in Wisconsin, meanwhile have introduced a new bill to create a psilocybin research pilot program in the state.

In May of this year, Washington State’s governor signed a bill into law to establish a pilot program at the University of Washington to provide access to the psychedelic for military veterans and first responders in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and mood and substance use disorders.

At the federal level, lawmakers met earlier this month for the first-ever congressional hearing on psychedelics, with testimony focusing on how substances like psilocybin and MDMA can aid therapy for military veterans’ facing mental health challenges.

In a recent Harvard University-hosted panel featuring former Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials, speakers broadly agreed that psychedelic substances like MDMA and psilocybin hold powerful potential to help treat PTSD and curb suicide rates in service members, but they cautioned against hasty, unsupervised use of psychedelics given the possibility for further harms.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) also announced recently that it’s seeking 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.

Californians Have Until Monday To Comment On Revised Psychedelics Ballot Proposal, With Final Update Expected December 1

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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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