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New York Lawmakers Say Bill To Legalize Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy Has A ‘Real Chance’ To Advance This Year



New York lawmakers say 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.

At a briefing on Wednesday, Assemblymember Pat Burke (D) and Sens. Nathalia Fernandez (D) and Jessica Scarcella-Spanton (D) detailed a pair of bills that aim to provide access to the psychedelic in a supervised setting and expressed optimism about the momentum they say could move them through the legislature.

“We’re in a mental health crisis, and so we need every tool that’s available to us,” Burke, who is sponsoring a bill to create a psilocybin therapy pilot program for 10,000 people, said. He added that “we’re here to turn the page” on the broader drug war.

Another measure the lawmaker introduced last year would more broadly allow people to receive psilocybin treatment from a certified facilitator in a clinical setting, or at their home if they’re unable to travel.

“We don’t get much bipartisan effort these days,” he said. “This is one of the rare ones that both sides, I think, are starting to agree.”

To that end, the lawmakers said in response to a question from Marijuana Moment that they do see a path to get the legislation through the Assembly Health Committee this year.

“The chair of Health is a huge advocate for this,” Burke said. “I thought we would get it done last year. Of course, there’s always more hurdles. But I think there is a real chance we move it out of our committees.”

“Who knows? If a wave of support comes at the end of session, I think we’ve got a shot,” he said. “But I almost prefer to underpromise rather than overpromise, but there’s a shot. I just think it requires all of us rowing in the same boat.”

Fernandez agreed and pointed out that, since she filed an earlier companion version of the psilocybin legislation, more members have become aware and supportive of the reform, with some telling her that while they might not be willing to formally cosponsor it, they “do want to vote for this bill.”

“There are political worries of it, but education is our best tool—and letting it be known and understood that this is not here to harm, this is something that is needed for some and many,” the senator said. “It should be part of the conversation when we look at mental health needs overall.”

Scarcella-Spanton also stressed the importance of supporters reaching out to their representatives to make it known that they back the legislation.

Marijuana Moment also asked the lawmakers whether they felt any lessons could be drawn from the state’s experience legalizing marijuana as they work to enact a regulatory model for psilocybin.

“I think they’re completely separate,” Fernandez said. “Cannabis is a medical tool as well, but it’s more able to be recreational and I don’t think psilocybin has that same possibility.”

Burke echoed that point, saying the drug policy issues are “completely different things.”

“Recreational cannabis has had a lot of problems in its rollout. The structure that was created, it’s frankly—it’s been a bit of a mess and everybody knows that,” he said. “And I don’t want that to be used as a tool against preventing [psilocybin therapy.] They’re completely different.”

New York’s legislature has been exploring a variety of psychedelics policy issues in recent sessions. In December 2022, for example, Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal (D) separately introduced a measure to legalize certain psychedelics such as psilocybin and ibogaine for adults 21 and older.

Under the psilocybin therapy pilot program legislation that Burke has most recently sponsored, the state Department of Health would be required to provide funding to cover the services and develop training guidelines for professional facilitators. It would need to issue a report on findings and policy recommendations to the governor and legislature every two years after enactment.

A total of 10,000 patients could participate, including veterans and their families, first responders and people who suffer from cluster headaches. They would need to reside in the western region of New York.

Lawmakers in states across the U.S. are gearing up for what has already proved to be an active year for psychedelics reform in 2024.

Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,000 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.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

On Tuesday, for example, an Arizona Senate committee unanimously approved a bipartisan bill that would legalize psilocybin service centers where people could receive the psychedelic in a medically supervised setting.

An Indiana House committee approved a Republican-led bill this week that would fund clinical research trials into psilocybin that has already cleared the full Senate.

Over the weekend, a New Mexico Senate committee unanimously passed a bipartisan 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.

An Alaska Senate panel took testimony last week on a plan that would create a state task force to explore how to legalize and regulate the therapeutic use of psychedelics in the state.

Bipartisan California lawmakers also recently introduced a bill to legalize psychedelic service centers where adults 21 and older could access psilocybin, MDMA, mescaline and DMT in a supervised environment with trained facilitators.

A Nevada joint legislative committee held a hearing with expert and public testimony on the therapeutic potential of substances like psilocybin last month. Law enforcement representatives also shared their concerns around legalization—but there was notable acknowledgement that some reforms should be enacted, including possible rescheduling.

The governor of Massachusetts recently promoted the testimony of activists who spoke in favor of her veterans-focused bill that would, in part, create a psychedelics work group to study the therapeutic potential of substances such as psilocybin.

A Missouri House committee considered a proposal last month that would legalize the medical use of psilocybin in the state and mandate clinical trials exploring the therapeutic potential of the psychedelic.

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