A North Carolina House committee has approved a bill to create a $5 million grant program to support research into the therapeutic potential of psilocybin and MDMA and to create a Breakthrough Therapies Research Advisory Board to oversee the effort.
The House Health Committee passed the legislation, filed by Rep. Edward Goodwin (R) and other bipartisan lawmakers last month, in a vote vote on Tuesday.
The measure wouldn’t legalize the psychedelics, but it would provide funding for two competitive grants through the state Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for eligible research initiatives focused on “breakthrough therapies.”
Psilocybin and MDMA are cited as examples of such therapies that have received the special designation from the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“This bill is not a decriminalization. It is not for recreational purposes,” Goodwin said at Tuesday’s hearing. “It is simply a research study to get information that we will need when these drugs are available for proper implementation.”
Starting in August 2024, the department would be required to accept grant applications from in-state research entities and academic institutions that can show they’re capable of carrying out the studies, including clinical trials involving adults 21 and older.
The bill, which has now been referred to the House Appropriations Committee before potentially receiving consideration on the floor, says that “the recipient must attest that the grant funds will be used to conduct research in this State on the use of one of two psychedelics, MDMA and psilocybin, and that the research will adhere to all FDA protocols and all applicable federal law.”
For studies involving MDMA, researchers would need to explore the substance’s potential in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for military veterans, first responders, frontline health professionals and people who have experienced domestic violence or sexual assault.
The psilocybin research would need to concentrate on how the psychedelic can affect anxiety and depressive disorder, while also measuring a patient’s pain levels with the treatment.
The grants are meant to fund three years of research, and recipients would need to submit a report with findings and recommendations to a Breakthrough Therapies Research Advisory Board and health department by January 15, 2028.
The board would be responsible for selecting the two grant recipients and notifying a joint legislative committee about their selection. Each recipient would receive $2.5 million.
Members of the board would need to include four people appointed by the governor; three members appointed by the House speaker; three members appointed by the Senate leader; one member of the Commission for Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services; the deputy secretary of health or a designee and the director of the Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services or a designee.
Appointees would need to have backgrounds in psychedelic research, cultivation, mental health, law enforcement or be a person who is “disproportionately impacted by trauma” such as a military veteran or first responder.
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This is one of a growing number of psychedelics bills that are being pursued in legislatures across the country this session.
Last week, for example, the governor of Arizona signed into law budget legislation that includes provisions to fund research into the medical potential of psilocybin mushrooms for a variety of conditions.
The Connecticut House of Representatives approved a bill last week to decriminalize possession of psilocybin mushrooms, sending it to the Senate.
The governor of Washington State signed a bill last week to promote research into psilocybin and create a pilot program to provide therapeutic access to the psychedelic for mental health treatment.
Vermont lawmakers held a committee hearing this month where members discussed legislation to legalize psilocybin and take first steps toward providing regulated access to the psychedelic.
A California bill to legalize the possession of certain psychedelics and facilitated use of the substances is heading to the Senate floor under an accelerated process that is allowing it to skip further committee consideration.
The Minnesota House recently passed an omnibus health bill that contains provisions to create a psychedelics task force meant to prepare the state for possible legalization.