Iowa Lawmakers Hold Historic Hearing On Psilocybin Decriminalization, But Do Not Advance Bill
In a first-of-its kind hearing, an Iowa House panel on Wednesday took up a bill to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms in the state.
While the three-member House Public Safety subcommittee opted not to advance the legislation, the meeting represented the first time state lawmakers have formally discussed a proposal to decriminalize a psychedelic substance in a legislative hearing, and it involved impassioned testimony from experts and people who’ve personally benefitted from psilocybin.
“I’m very pleased with the testimony shared with lawmakers today,” Rep. Jeff Shipley (R), sponsor of the bill, told Marijuana Moment. “While the public safety committee chose not to advance the bill, it’s clear Iowans aren’t waiting for permission and are taking the lead on their own genuine health and healing as it relates to these naturally occurring tools.”
Under the bill, psilocybin would be removed from the state’s list of controlled substances. The statute maintains that Schedule I drugs under that list have “a high potential for abuse” and “no accepted medical use in treatment in the United States or lacks accepted safety for use in treatment under medical supervision.”
One person who testified gave an alternative perspective on the substance, arguing that so-called magic mushrooms actually enabled him to overcome an addition to a drug with high abuse potential.
“Psilocybin works very effectively for treating drug addiction and depression and anxiety,” he said. “I personally struggled with meth for literally decades and tried [Narcotics Anonymous] and treatment centers like that and didn’t have any success at all until I learned about psilocybin. Once I utilized it, I’ve been clean five years now.”
speaking about joy and love in his heart — music to my ears. "Useful in helping hardcore meth addicts recovering from addiction"
— Jeff Shipley 🦁 (@JeffShipley77) March 3, 2021
Lawmakers also heard from a therapist who has seen the benefits of psilocybin and from a man who said using it helped him process childhood trauma.
Representatives from the state Pharmacy Board and Office of Drug Control Policy offered neutral testimony on the proposal.
Members of the subcommittee said that they were reluctant to advance the bill because, despite the statements attesting to the therapeutic value of psilocybin, they would prefer for substances to be federally approved as medicines before disbanding with criminalization.
“I tend to look to the [Food and Drug Administration] for approval and recognition for when substances are medically available to us—in other words, when they have the opportunity to assist us medicinally,” one member said.
“I think it’s important that we have this conversation—that we continue the conversation, continue to share your stories—so that other legislators are aware of what’s going on because there may be a day we act on something, but I don’t think today’s that day,” another member said.
Shipley 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 defeated on the floor, though the sponsor told Marijuana Moment that the fact that one-third of the body from diverging political ideologies embraced the reform was a victory in itself.
The GOP lawmaker is also the sponsor of separate legislation this session that would allow seriously ill people to use psilocybin mushrooms, MDMA, LSD, DMT or peyote as alternative treatments after they’ve exhausted traditional legal medicines.
Another bill he filed would create a therapeutic legalization model for psilocybin, similar to what Oregon voters approved at the ballot in November. That legislation has also been referred to the Public Safety Committee.
Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 800 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.
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While the subcommittee might not have joined Shipley in his push for psilocybin decriminalization this year, a large coalition of local and state legislators recently stepped up their call for marijuana legalization and expunging past cannabis convictions, and on Monday a Senate subcommittee advanced a bill to lower possession penalties.
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.
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Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/Mushroom Observer.