A Missouri House committee on Monday held a hearing 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.
Members of the House Health and Mental Health Policy Committee took testimony from researchers who spoke to the therapeutic potential of psychedelics like psilocybin, DMT, mescaline and ibogaine. The panel also heard from military veterans and law enforcement professionals who back the reform, while the Missouri State Medical Association testified in opposition.
Rep. Tony Lovasco (R) is sponsoring the legislation, which was filed earlier this month and would provide patients with certain serious conditions like treatment-resistant depression, PTSD and terminal illnesses access to various psychedelics substances.
Lovasco told fellow lawmakers that these “types of products are specifically helpful” for those maladies “as well as anxiety and a few other types of conditions.”
“Generally speaking, if something is provided to you legally for the purposes of medicine you probably shouldn’t be prosecuted for that,” he said, adding that states like Oregon and Oklahoma have recently moved to reform their laws around psychedelics either at the ballot or legislatively.
“This is not exactly a new idea, but the concept of using these compounds—psilocybin specifically—is becoming more and more researched in the past years,” he said. “This isn’t a recreational program that allows people to be using these substances. Part of the purpose of this bill is simply to provide an expansion to Missouri’s current right to try law and statutes that allow folks that have debilitating conditions to have an option to have an alternative treatment.”
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Patients would only be able to access the treatment option at certified health facilities, those providing hospice care, residential care facilities or the patient or caregiver’s residence.
“I have to say, as an elderly senior citizen and a retired pharmacist, the idea of this is a little bit jolting,” Chairman Mike Stephens (R) said during Monday’s hearing. “But at the same time [like with medical cannabis] it’s consistent with the story of medicine, actually, that began in primeval times.”
“Hunter-gatherers began noticing that ingesting certain parts of certain plants produced a certain effect. That was the origin of medicine,” he said. “We can’t close or close our eyes to these things… I’ve told my patients at times that every bottle on this shelf has killed somebody. And it is always a matter of dosing and testing and trying to balance the good with the bad.”
The bill would also provide legal protections from prosecution for doctors who make recommendations for “natural medicine to an eligible patient.” The text states that “no state agency or regulatory board shall revoke, fail to renew, or take any other action against a physician’s license…based solely on the physician’s recommendation to an eligible patient regarding treatment with natural medicine.”
Rep. Patty Lewis (D) said at Monday’s hearing that she finds this issue “fascinating” and believes that “our higher power [put] everything on this earth for a reason.” She added: “This is one other natural substance that can help so many people struggling with all kinds of anxiety, depression [and] stress disorder.”
Meanwhile, some other members expressed concerns about the potential mental health impacts of psychedelics and raised issues about how law enforcement might be affected by the reform.
Missouri is far from the only state exploring psychedelics reform this session.
Last week, for example, a Connecticut legislative committee approved a bill that would set the state up to provide certain patients with access to psychedelic-assisted treatment with substances like MDMA and psilocybin. Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) signed a separate bill last year that includes language requiring the state to carry out a study into the therapeutic potential of psilocybin mushrooms. A workgroup has since been meeting to investigate the issue.
A Maryland House of Delegates committee held a hearing last week on a bill to create a state fund that could be used to provide access to psychedelics like psilocybin, MDMA and ketamine for military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
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.
This month, 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 this 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.
A bipartisan coalition of Georgia lawmakers recently filed a 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.
Rhode Island lawmakers introduced a pair of drug decriminalization bills this month—including one focused on psilocybin and buprenorphine that would authorize doctors to prescribe the psychedelic mushroom.
Last month, Utah lawmakers sent a bill to the governor that would create a task force to study and make recommendations on the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs and possible regulations for their lawful use.
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.
Washington State lawmakers also introduced legislation in January that would legalize what the bill calls “supported psilocybin experiences” by adults 21 and older.
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.
A pair of Michigan senators also introduced a bill in September to legalize the possession, cultivation and delivery of an array of plant- and fungi-derived psychedelics like psilocybin and mescaline.
In a setback for the movement, California activists on Wednesday announced that they have come up short on collecting enough signatures to qualify a measure to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for the state’s November ballot, though they aren’t giving up on a future election cycle bid.
Colorado activists, meanwhile, recently selected one of the four psychedelics reform ballot initiatives that they drafted and filed for the November ballot, choosing to proceed with a measure to legalize psilocybin, create licensed “healing centers” where people can use the psychedelic for therapeutic purposes and provide a pathway for record sealing for prior convictions. A competing campaign filed a different psychedelics legalization last month.
Michigan activists filed a statewide ballot initiative last month that would legalize possessing, cultivating and sharing psychedelics and set up a system for their therapeutic and spiritual use.
At the congressional level, bipartisan lawmakers sent a letter to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) last month, urging that the agency allow terminally ill patients to use psilocybin as an investigational treatment without the fear of federal prosecution.