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New Jersey Panel Approves Amended Psilocybin Bill, Removing Broad Legalization To Focus On Therapeutic Program



A New Jersey Senate panel approved an amended psilocybin bill on Thursday, advancing substitute language that removed earlier provisions that would have broadly legalized possession, use and cultivation by adults in order to instead focus exclusively on therapeutic access to the psychedelic.

The Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee voted 6–2 to release the bill, S.2283, sponsored by Senate President Nick Scutari (D) and others.

Initially, the legislation was introduced this year in identical form to what Scutari proposed last session—a plan that included personal legalization provisions, which the recent amended version takes out. Those components would have made it legal for adults to “possess, store, use, ingest, inhale, process, transport, deliver without consideration, or distribute without consideration, four grams or less of psilocybin.”

The new measure would nevertheless significantly expand on legislation Scutari introduced in late 2020 to reduce penalties for possession of up to one ounce of psilocybin. That reform that was signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy (D) in 2021.

In its amended version, the bill would charge the Department of Health (DOH) with licensing and regulating the manufacture, testing, transport, delivery, sale and purchase of psilocybin. There would be five license types: manufacturer, service center operator, testing laboratory, facilitator and psilocybin worker.

A Psilocybin Advisory Board would establish qualifying medical conditions for use, propose guidelines for psilocybin services and dosage, craft safety screenings and informed consent practices and oversee facilitator education, training and conduct.

Its stated goal would be to develop a long-term strategic plan for safe, accessible and affordable access to psilocybin for all people 21 and older.

Toward that goal, a social equity program would be tasked with establishing financial assistance to help low-income people cover costs of psilocybin services. DOH would also be directed to establish programs for technical assistance, reduced fees and other support services.

In furtherance of the shift toward a therapeutic-focused model, the substitute bill changes references to “clients” to “patients,” and “integrated session” has been replaced with “integrated therapy session.” It also removes all references to the existing Cannabis Regulatory Commission.

In order to access the psilocybin services, a patient with a qualifying condition would need to obtain a referral from a licensed health care professional. Services would also include mandatory preparation and integration sessions before and after the administration of psilocybin.

During public comment on the bill, some mental health professionals and psychedelics advocates spoke in favor of the bill, saying it would open an avenue to a potentially powerful new therapy. Other reformers, however, criticized the removal of protections for personal possession and home cultivation.

Chris Goldstein, a cannabis activist with NORML, submitted written testimony to the committee criticizing the amended proposal, calling it a “completely over-regulated approach” that “seems all-too-familiar because it’s the same flawed thinking that was behind New Jersey’s original medical marijuana program; one that more than a decade later has simply failed patients.”

“Millions of NJ residents who could be accessing safe medical cannabis are still buying on the street because of expensive products and corporate consolidation,” Goldstein wrote. “We’ve seen all this on paper before, and none of it has worked in the real world. Just like the approach to medical cannabis, there is a real disconnect between this legislature and the millions of people who safely use these substances.”

The operator of a licensed marijuana-testing laboratory in the state, meanwhile, said she initially intended to support the bill as it was introduced. But after the amendments, she told lawmakers, “I can no longer in good faith offer my support.”

“Some form of homegrown, whether personal use or medical, should be included in the initial legalization of medicinal psilocybin centers,” urged Kristen Goedde, founder of Trichome Analytical. “Otherwise we’ll we will run into the same critical patient access issues we’re seeing in cannabis today.”

In Oregon, where facilitated psilocybin services are already legal and regulated, Goedde pointed out, “psilocybin-assisted therapy has extremely long waitlist and costs thousands of dollars per session, making it inaccessible to most people.”

“Allowing for profit companies to begin to capitalize on psychedelic treatments while refusing expungement and incarcerating those who cannot afford or obtain legal treatment is simply perpetuating the failed war on drugs,” she added.

A farmer who currently cultivates non-psychedelic mushrooms commercially, suggested that references in the bill to “manufacturer” be changed to “farmer” to signal the agricultural nature of the work and urged lawmakers to limit the size of psilocybin businesses.

While the pushback from the advocates didn’t seem to sway the panel generally, one lawmaker, Republican Sen. Owen Henry, agreed that the amended bill was a step backward.

“Just reading through the amendments, it sounds almost like we’ll be making it worse,” he said, casting a vote against the bill. “I just need a little bit more time.”

Henry also called for more information as the measure proceeds through the legislative process. “I look forward to vetting this out with the full Senate,” he said. “I’m gonna vote no today for this bill, but something needs to happen.”

Text of the substitute language approved on Thursday wasn’t immediately available on the legislature’s website, though Marijuana Moment obtained a summary of the changes.

A survey of New Jersey residents released earlier this week indicates that a majority of state residents agree with making psilocybin available for therapeutic use, though they weren’t asked specifically about the new legislation.

The poll, from Stockton University’s William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy, found that 55 percent of respondents supported legalizing psilocybin for medical use under a doctor’s supervision. Just 20 percent of respondents were opposed, while 24 percent said they weren’t sure. One percent of respondents refused to answer the question.

Younger residents—those between the ages of 18 and 49—as well as Democrats showed higher rates of support.

Asked whether they themselves had ever felt the need to be treated for depression, anxiety and/or PTSD, just under a third (30 percent) said they had. Another 69 percent said they hadn’t felt the need for treatment, while 2 percent weren’t sure.

The Hughes Center report also included separate findings on the efficacy and safety of psilocybin, noting for example that psilocybin-assisted therapy “has shown significant anti-depressant and anti-anxiety effects that have been replicated across multiple randomized clinical trials.”

Use in a controlled, professionally supervised environment, it adds, “seems to pose minimal risks for physical and psychological harm.”

“Clinical researchers have established safety guidelines to govern the use of psilocybin-assisted therapy,” says a summary of the findings, “which includes a set of criteria that should be used to determine who is a good candidate for this type of treatment, standards for the minimum number of supervisors, proper training and more.”

Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,500 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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Lawmakers in a growing number of other states have also considered psychedelics legislation this session, with many focusing on psilocybin.

In New York, lawmakers last month introduced a bill that would legalize psilocybin for adults so long as they obtain a permit and undergo a health screening and educational course.

The intent of that measure is to promote “the health and well-being of the citizens of the state of New York by establishing a comprehensive framework supporting public health and safety through regulated adult use, support services, and cultivation of psilocybin-containing fungi,” it says.

In February, bicameral New York lawmakers said at a briefing that there’s a “real chance” that legislation to legalize psilocybin-assisted therapy will advance through committee this session, emphasizing that delaying action would “neglect” many “people who need help” with certain mental health conditions.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (D) signed legislation last month to create a psychedelics task force responsible for studying possible regulatory frameworks for therapeutic access to substances such as psilocybin, mescaline and DMT. It would be charged specifically with ensuring “broad, equitable and affordable access to psychedelic substances” in the state.

Vermont’s governor also recently signed into law a measure that would establish a working group to study whether and how to allow therapeutic access to psychedelics in the state. A report from the working group is due to the legislature in November with recommendations on how to regulate the substances.

Indiana also recently adopted a law that includes provisions to fund clinical research trials into psilocybin.

Utah’s governor allowed a bill to authorize a pilot program for hospitals to administer psilocybin and MDMA as an alternative treatment option to become law without his signature.

And in New Mexico, the governor has endorsed a newly enacted resolution requesting that state officials research the therapeutic potential of psilocybin and explore the creation of a regulatory framework to provide access to the psychedelic.

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Ben Adlin, a senior editor at Marijuana Moment, has been covering cannabis and other drug policy issues professionally since 2011. He was previously a senior news editor at Leafly, an associate editor at the Los Angeles Daily Journal and a Coro Fellow in Public Affairs. He lives in Washington State.


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