A Republican lawmaker in Iowa is taking another swing at reforming the state’s psychedelics laws, introducing a bill on Tuesday to remove psilocybin from the list of controlled substances.
Rep. Jeff Shipley (R) first filed a bill to get the policy change enacted in 2019, and then pursued the idea again the next year as an amendment to a spending bill. The standalone legislation died in committee and the amendment was soundly defeated on the floor, in part because some members questioned its germaneness in a budget process.
The representative also filed legislation in 2019 that would have legalized psilocybin, MDMA and ibogaine for therapeutic purposes. That also did not advance.
While Shipley has plans to continue to put forward additional, broader psychedelics reform measures this session, this first bill has a more narrow scope. The text of the legislation simply states that it “removes psilocybin and psilocyn from the list of substances classified as schedule I controlled substances under Iowa’s uniform Controlled Substances Act.”
The bill has been referred to the House Public Safety Committee for consideration.
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“I wish I had more time to devote to the psychedelic sciences,” Shipley told Marijuana Moment, adding that he is also in the process of introducing a “right to try” bill that could theoretically free up access to experimental therapeutics like psilocybin for certain patients.
He said that “right to try” is “the most conservative approach to usher in the new age of mental and emotional healthcare,” though it’s “still a topic many members of the public are unfamiliar with.”
President Donald Trump signed a federal “Right to Try Act” in 2018, allowing certain patients to access drugs that have not yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for broad use.
The Iowa representative said he expects Democratic lawmakers to “repeat their baseless attacks against these proposals,” but that he’s “optimistic for productive conversations this legislative session.”
Asked about the nature of Democratic “attacks” on psychedelics reform, Shipley pointed to a 2019 Iowa Statehouse Progressive Network legislative update that characterized his earlier decriminalization proposal as a bill to “legalize the date rape drug and other hallucinogenic drugs like LSD.”
The text of the legislation did not reference GHB, which is sometimes referred to pejoratively as a “date rape drug,” nor did it provide for the legalization of LSD. It would have removed psilocybin, MDMA and ibogaine from the state’s list of schedule I controlled substances.
Even so, while Shipley expects pushback from some Democratic legislators, it remains the case that the Iowa legislature that has declined to act on his previous proposals is controlled by Republicans who have historically avoided embracing drug policy reform. And it remains to be seen whether they will be moved to advance his psychedelics bills this session.
Some Democratic lawmakers in Iowa might not have joined Shipley in his push for psilocybin decriminalization so far, but a large coalition of local and state legislators in the party recently stepped up their call for marijuana legalization and expunging past cannabis convictions. It’s a policy that sets them apart from the legislature’s current GOP leadership, which has not endorsed the reform.
The Iowa Democratic Party also adopted a platform plank supporting “legalizing all drugs” in 2016 as a “divestment strategy in the drug war,” as one delegate described it. But by 2018, that language was toned down, with the party instead aligning with policies to simply remove the criminalization of drug use and vacate the records of individuals with non-violent drug convictions.
Shipley may be right that his pending “right to try” legislation isn’t a policy subject that’s widely understood, but when it comes to decriminalizing psychedelics like psilocybin, public awareness about the issue has increased significantly over the last couple years as cities and states have pursued reform.
The recent shift can be traced back to Denver’s historic 2019 vote to decriminalize psilocybin—an action that has inspired activists in more than 100 cities to seek similar policy changes in their areas in the years since.
In Oregon, November’s election also saw the passage of a historic initiatives to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for therapeutic purposes and more broadly decriminalize possession of all drugs.
Meanwhile, lawmakers in California, New York, Virginia, Washington and other states are considering psychedelics and drug policy reform bills for the 2021 session.
Image courtesy of Kristie Gianopulos.