Maryland Bill To Fund Psychedelics Research And Access For Veterans Takes Effect Without Governor’s Signature
The governor of Maryland announced on Friday that he will allow a bill to 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 to take effect without his signature.
The measure from Sen. Sarah Elfreth (D) passed unanimously through both legislative chambers before being sent to Gov. Larry Hogan (R).
Rather than sign it into law or veto it, however, Hogan included the legislation in a list of measures that will be enacted without his proactive support.
That’s similar to what he did last month when he allowed a separate piece of marijuana legislation become law without his signature. That bill creates initial rules for an adult-use legalization program if voters approve the reform at the ballot, which they will have the chance to do this November under a different measure that was enacted by the legislature this session.
The psychedelics bill, meanwhile, will establish what’s being called the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury Alternative Therapies Fund. It stipulates that money from that fund must be used to study “the use of alternative therapies for veterans with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries.”
In March, the House Appropriations Committee also considered nearly identical companion legislation sponsored by Del. Seth Howard (R). Members at the time adopted several amendments to more closely align the legislation in both chambers. It also passed in the House on second reading, but it is not the vehicle for the reform because it didn’t advance through its chamber of origin ahead of the crossover deadline.
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The Senate bill that Hogan is allowing to become law will provide “cost-free access” to psychedelics for eligible veterans.
The state Department of Health will be required to “periodically” consult with the Department of Veterans Affairs, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Maryland, Sheppard Pratt hospital, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and BrainFutures.
The purpose of the partnerships are meant to determine the “effectiveness of and a method for improving access to alternative therapies for treating” PTSD and traumatic brain injury in veterans. They will also consult on “appropriate uses of the fund that further the fund’s purpose.”
The department will need to first submit a report to the governor and legislation with “initial findings and recommendations” by December 1, 2022. Two years later, there’s another deadline for findings and recommendations that are based on studies that were specifically funded through the PTSD fund.
The recommendations will focus on “budgetary, legislative, or regulatory changes to expand access to alternative therapies for veterans with post–traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries,” the bill text states.
For fiscal year 2024, the bill calls for the governor to include $1 million in an annual budget bill for the fund.
Maryland is one of numerous states where psychedelics reform is being taken up this session.
For instance, Colorado activists are working to place competing initiatives to legalize psychedelics on the state’s November ballot, with one campaign saying recently that it’s already collected nearly half of the required signatures needed to qualify its measure.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) was recently asked about the prospects of enacting psychedelics reform in the state, and he acknowledged that advocates are working to accomplish that policy change at the ballot and also said he supports the idea of decriminalizing the substances.
He will also have a chance to sign a more modest psychedelics reform bill into law after the legislature sent him a measure to align state statute to legalize MDMA prescriptions if and when the federal government ultimately permits such use.
The governor of Connecticut recently 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.
The Maine Senate approved a bill last month to to create a medical psilocybin program in the state, but the House of Representatives refused to go along.
Also this year, 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 signed a bill in March 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 that 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.
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.
In March, the Hawaii Senate approved a bill to set up a state working group to study the therapeutic benefits of psilocybin mushrooms and develop a “long-term” plan to ensure that the psychedelic is accessible for medical use for adults 21 and older.
Also that 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 in March—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.
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 DEA in January, urging that the agency allow terminally ill patients to use psilocybin as an investigational treatment without the fear of federal prosecution.
Activists and patients were arrested at the DEA headquarters this month after engaging in civil disobedience during a protest over the agency’s refusal to provide a waiver granting those patients access to psilocybin under Right to Try laws.
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