Nevada senators held a hearing on a bill to legalize the possession of psilocybin on Thursday, discussing a proposed amendment to remove therapeutic use provisions and taking extensive testimony from advocates and experts—including from an Assembly lawmaker who shared his own experience with ketamine treatment.
The Senate Health and Human Services Committee took up the legislation from Sen. Rochelle Nguyen (D), which under the amendment would remove criminal penalties for possession of up to six ounces of the psychedelic for adults 21 and older.
“Veterans, law enforcement, first responders and all Nevadans deserve the right to explore treatment options in the safety of their own home,” Nguyen said at the hearing. “We want to reduce the prosecution of people who wish to heal themselves and protect those who protect us. It’s the least that we can do.”
As introduced, the measure would have also streamlined the process of researching psilocybin and MDMA, providing protections for scientists and adults who participate in the studies. But the proposed amendment would eliminate that language.
Instead, the revision would contain less prescriptive language, saying simply that the state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) would need to establish a Psychedelic Medicines Working Group to “study psychedelic medicines and make recommendations to the legislature.”
The legal possession limit was also increased from four to six ounces under the amendment.
Under the bill, the working group would be responsible for reviewing the therapeutic potential of psychedelics including psilocybin for certain mental health conditions and existing laws and regulations governing entheogenic substances at the federal, state and local levels.
Members would further need to develop “a strategic, measurable, and actionable plan on how to enable access to therapeutic entheogens and compounds including, but not limited to psilocybin and psilocin products that are safe, accessible, and affordable.”
A report with findings and recommendations would be due to the legislature by December 31, 2024.
Assemblymember Max Carter (D) testified at Thursday’s hearing and discussed his personal experience using ketamine for chronic depression. He said that while the substance is effective, it’s a short-term therapy, especially compared to psilocybin.
“The lingering effects of psilocybin are measured in months and years, and that’s why we need to take and look at this and allow it to be explored in our state,” he said. “Right now, we’ve got veterans, active duty first responders and common people just like you and I that are seeking out and benefiting from psilocybin therapy. Unfortunately, it’s happening in the shadows. This is the first step to bringing this promising therapy into the light where it belongs.”
The chair of the committee, Sen. Fabian Doñate (D), said that while he wasn’t alive in the 1980s, “the ramifications of the war on drugs we still see to this very day.”
Although I wasn’t alive in the 1980s, the ramifications of Reagan’s “War on Drugs” can be felt to this very day.
Psilocybin has been utilized by cultures longer than any of us have been alive, it’s time to decriminalize it and study its effects. pic.twitter.com/IG1ZozdL6R
— Fabian Doñate (@fabiandonate) March 24, 2023
“I think that’s something that all of us can see in general throughout this country,” the senator, who is cosponsoring the legislation, said. “The fact of the matter is what we have seen, particularly with this issue, is we have forbidden our researchers from actually understanding what this process could entail—and that has persisted for generations.”
The whereas section of the bill states that Nevada “has a high prevalence of adults with behavioral health conditions,” and studies show that psilocybin have “efficacy and safety in the treatment of a variety of behavioral health conditions.”
“Numerous state and local lawmaking bodies throughout the United States have already enacted or are currently considering legislation decriminalizing certain conduct by certain persons relating to psilocybin and psilocin,” it says.
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Nevada is joining a rapidly growing list of states where legislators are pursuing psychedelics reform this session as interest in the therapeutic potential into entheogenic substances expands.
For example, a Hawaii Senate committee approved a House-passed bill on Wednesday that would create an advisory council to look into possible regulations to provide access to federal “breakthrough therapies” like psilocybin and MDMA.
On Tuesday, a California Senate committee approved a bill to legalize possession of certain psychedelics and facilitated use of the substances.
A Minnesota House committee took up a bill last week to establish a task force to study and advise on the potential legalization of psychedelics like psilocybin, MDMA and ibogaine.
Texas lawmakers recently filed a series of new bills aimed at promoting and expanding psychedelics research in the state.
This month, the Oklahoma House of Representatives approved a bill to promote research into the therapeutic potential of psilocybin while providing legal protections against prosecution for people with eligible conditions who possess the psychedelic.
Also this month, a Rhode Island House committee held a hearing on a bill that would remove penalties for the use and possession of psilocybin and allow the home cultivation of psychedelic mushrooms for personal use.
The Washington State Senate recently passed a bill to create a task force supporting research into psilocybin and develop a pathway for legal access to the psychedelic.
Hawaii’s Senate and House passed three psychedelics research bills earlier this month.
Missouri lawmakers also cleared a GOP-led bill in committee this month to facilitate research into the therapeutic potential of certain psychedelics such as psilocybin, MDMA and ketamine.
Those are just a few examples of the types of reforms that legislators across the country are considering this session.
An analysis published in an American Medical Association journal last year concluded that a majority of states will legalize psychedelics by 2037, based on statistical modeling of policy trends.
A national poll published this month found that a majority of U.S. voters support legal access to psychedelics therapy and back federally decriminalizing substances like psilocybin and MDMA.