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Rhode Island Lawmakers Hear Bill To Decriminalize Psilocybin And Pave The Way For Legal Medical Access



A Rhode Island House committee held a hearing on Thursday 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 legislation, introduced last week by Rep. Brandon Potter (D) and Sen. Megan Kallman (D), would also require the state to establish rules and regulations around a therapeutic psilocybin program if the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reschedules the substance.

“This is a naturally occurring, non-toxic, non-addictive substance that many indigenous cultures have used in religious practice for thousands of years,” Potter told the House Judiciary Committee. “But more recently, an overwhelming amount of studies and clinical trials have shown that there are statistically significant benefits for people who are suffering with severe in treatment-resistant mental illness, while also having much fewer negative side effects than standard drugs that would be prescribed.”

The bill, H 5923, would remove possession and sharing of “any compound, mixture, or preparation containing less than one ounce (1 oz.) of psilocybin” from the state’s uniform controlled substances act. Psilocybin would need to be “securely cultivated within a person’s residence for personal use.”

Three of the bill’s nine listed co-sponsors sit on the Judiciary Committee, but the panel did not vote on the legislation immediately following the testimony, as is typical in the state.

“This is also about correcting a mistake,” Potter told members at the hearing. “Psilocybin is still scheduled federally and in Rhode Island law, as a Schedule I substance, meaning that it’s determined to have a high degree of addiction potential and no known medical use. And on both of those fronts, we just know that is not the case.”

“We know it is not addictive,” he said, “and we know that it has a therapeutic use.”

A press release about the new legislation notes that Oregon and Colorado have already passed laws allowing legal access to psilocybin, while several other states are considering similar bills.

Kallman, the Senate sponsor, said in the release that psilocybin “is only illegal because, over 50 years ago, President Nixon associated it with his political opponents.”

“It’s time to undo that mistake and give our neighbors struggling with chronic mental illness, and all Rhode Islanders, the freedom to use psilocybin responsibly,” she said.

Kallman told a local ABC affiliate that she believed the state was ready to reassess its position on the substance.

“To have a scientifically minded, sincere discussion about this, we just did this with marijuana, we know that we are capable of doing this,” she said. “Our cultural approach to regulating drugs has been based not in science and it’s time for that to change.”

Rhode Island legalized marijuana for adults through an act of the legislature last spring. The first retail shops opened in December. Medical marijuana, meanwhile, has been legal in the state since 2006.

The state Supreme Court also recently issued guidance on how to proceed with expunging marijuana records under the new legalization law.

The Senate Judiciary Committee previously held a hearing in 2021 on legislation that would end criminal penalties for possessing small amounts of drugs and replace them with a $100 fine. That same year, the governor signed a historic bill to allow safe consumption sites, places where people can use currently illicit drugs under medical supervision and receive resources to enter treatment.

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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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