Lawmakers In Three More States File Psychedelics Reform Bills For 2023
The list of states where lawmakers are pursuing psychedelics reform this session continues to grow, with new bills being filed in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Oklahoma.
More than a dozen state legislatures have seen psychedelics proposals introduced in the first weeks of 2023 as the local decriminalization movement expands, bringing in legislators from diverse political backgrounds.
Here’s a rundown of the latest proposals:
A placeholder bill from Rep. Michelle Cook (D), who serves as deputy speaker, would appropriate a currently unspecified amount of state funds to the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services for the current fiscal year to establish a “psychedelic-assisted therapy pilot program.”
The legislation, which will be referred to the House Public Health Committee after the final text is released, is more limited than a separate psychedelic proposal that another Connecticut lawmaker intends to file.
According to the placeholder description of that measure, the bill will seek to legalize “the use of psilocybin for medicinal and therapeutic purposes, including, but not limited to, the provision of physical, mental or behavioral health care.”
Last year, Gov. Ned Lamont (D) separately signed a large-scale budget bill that includes provisions to set the state up to provide certain patients with access to psychedelic-assisted treatment using substances like MDMA and psilocybin.
Sen. Patricia Jehlen (D) and Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa (D) recently introduced legislation, drafted in concert with the advocacy group Bay Staters for Natural Medicine (BSNM), that would legalize a series of psychedelics for adults 18 and older.
It states simply that the following activities would not be unlawful for adults: “The possession, ingestion, obtaining, growing, giving away without financial gain to natural persons 18 years of age or older, and transportation of no more than two grams of psilocybin, psilocyn, dimethyltryptamine, ibogaine, and mescaline, excluding the weight of any material such as water, plant and fungi material of which the substance is a part or to which the substance is added, dissolved, held in solution, or suspended.”
BSNM founder James Davis said in a press release on Friday that psilocybin mushrooms “are life changing.”
“From depression to addiction to painful cluster headaches, they are a tool that people should use in a caring community,” Davis said. “There’s no better way to promote intentional and mindful use than to decriminalize minor amounts for home growing and sharing without enabling commercial sale.”
Activists in the state have successfully worked to enact local psychedelics reform in a number of cities across the state: Somerville, Cambridge, Easthampton and Northampton. An effort to decriminalize natural plants and fungi stalled out in Amherst last summer, however.
Rep. Mike Connolly (D) also filed a bill in 2021 that received a Joint Judiciary Committee hearing on studying the implications of legalizing entheogenic substances like psilocybin and ayahuasca. It did not ultimately advance to a vote.
“Community works. Education and harm reduction are always a better strategy than criminalization,” Colomba Klenner, communications director for BSNM, said.
Rep. Daniel Pae (R) is again seeking to enact psychedelics reform in the Sooner State, filing legislation on Thursday that’s been dialed back from the version he sponsored last session to exclude broad decriminalization provisions and focus more narrowly on psilocybin research.
The bill would let universities, and research facilities that contract with Oklahoma institutions of higher education, carry out studies into the therapeutic potential of psilocybin and psilocyn for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury, early-stage dementia, palliative care, end-of-life care, opioid use disorder, chronic pain, severe depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Any approved studies would need involve clinical trials, a review of the existing scientific literature and the “science of cultivation, synthesis, extraction, and processing of psilocybin and psilocyn as well as the fungi, yeasts, and other naturally occurring source organisms of these molecules.”
Researchers and people participating in the psychedelics clinical trials would be protected against prosecution.
While the bill no longer couples research with decriminalization, people who face prosecution over psilocybin possession would be afforded an affirmative defense if they can “demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence” that they have a medical condition that falls under the list of study subjects like PTSD or chronic pain.
“This subsection shall not be understood to be the decriminalization of psilocybin or psilocyn,” the bill states.
“Researching entities shall submit a written report to the President Pro Tempore of the Oklahoma State Senate and the Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives containing the results of the studies conducted under this section and any recommendations for legislative or other actions not later than December 1, 2026,” it continues.
The legislation that Pae sponsored last session passed the House and made it through a Senate committee, where it was amended to exclude decriminalization, but it did not advance through the full chamber.
Rep. Logan Phillips (R) separately filed a psychedelic research measure without decriminalization last session, but it wasn’t enacted either.
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These are some of the latest examples of psychedelics reform legislation that lawmakers across the country are pursuing this year.
In a setback, Virginia lawmakers rejected a bill this week that would have allow people with serious mental health conditions to possess and use psilocybin mushrooms with a doctor’s recommendation.
Meanwhile, a Republican Missouri lawmaker filed a bill on Wednesday that would provide therapeutic access to psilocybin for people with serious mental health conditions.
A Republican New Hampshire lawmaker also recently filed a bill to legalize the possession and use of psychedelics like psilocybin and LSD by adults 21 and older.
New York Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal (D) pre-filed legislation late last month to legalize certain psychedelics like psilocybin and ibogaine for adults 21 and older. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) also recently signed a bill mandating that the state immediately reschedule or deschedule Schedule I drugs like MDMA and psilocybin if they’re reclassified under federal law.
Bipartisan Washington State senators also recently unveiled a revised bill to legalize psilocybin services for adults.
There are also psychedelics reform efforts underway in Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey and Oregon.
Oregon voters approved a historic ballot initiative to legalize psilocybin for therapeutic use in 2020, and Colorado voters passed a broad psychedelics legalization and psilocybin services measure during the November election.
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.
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Photo courtesy of Dick Culbert.