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Vermont Lawmakers Approve Psychedelic Therapy Task Force Bill, Putting It One Step Away From Governor’s Desk



Vermont’s House of Representatives has passed a bill that would create a psychedelic-assisted therapy working group to make recommendations on whether and how the state should regulate legal access to substances like psilocybin and MDMA.

House lawmakers passed the measure, S.114, on a voice vote Wednesday, a day after adopting an amendment discussed in an earlier committee hearing. That change directs the Vermont Psychological Association to collaborate with the state Department of Health to help staff and provide technical assistance to the working group.

The Senate, for its part, passed an earlier version of the legislation in March, but there have been a number of changes since the legislation landed in the House—so the measure will require a concurrence vote in the originating body before it can head to the governor’s desk.

In its current form, the proposal would not itself change the legal status of any substances. Rather, the eight-person task force would “review the latest research and evidence of the public health benefits and risks of clinical psychedelic assisted treatments” and “examine the laws and programs of other states that have authorized the use of psychedelics by health care providers in a therapeutic setting,” according to the latest version of the measure.

As originally introduced, the measure from Sen. Martine Larocque Gulick (D) would have also legalized use and possession of psilocybin. Lawmakers on the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, however, deleted that section to focus instead on the therapeutic working group.

There was little floor discussion in the House ahead of Wednesday’s vote. One member, however—Rep. Tristan Roberts (D)—spoke to how psychedelic-assisted therapy helped him address childhood trauma that caused him night terrors.

“I now recognize that my night terrors were my body’s way of asking me to face my fears,” he said. “Psychedelic-assisted therapy gave me the tools to to do that that I hadn’t found in 40 years of looking.”

“I sleep much better now. Depression and anxiety are more often symptoms that move through me; they are not me,” he continued. “I felt for the first time in memory that I could appreciate and add to the beauty in life. Psychedelic medicine helped me uncover again my true nature.”

Last week the measure advanced out of committee with a striking amendment from Rep. Anne Donahue (R).

The committee’s changes removed task force members representing the Psychedelic Society of Vermont and the Brattleboro Retreat, a psychiatric and addiction hospital. It added representatives from the state Department of Mental Health and the nonprofit Vermont Medical Society.

The amendment also deleted a provision that would have directed the working group to evaluate the criminalization of psychedelics in Vermont. It also removed struck a line that said the task force would “provide potential timelines for universal and equitable access to psychedelic-assisted treatments.”

Another change removed an earlier provision directing the task force to provide an opportunity “for individuals with lived experience to provide testimony.”

Donahue said her own life experiences with mental health care have left her skeptical of assurances from psychedelic-assisted therapy advocates.

“I have lived the life of somebody who has been told, ‘Oh, this is safe, this is safe, this is safe.’ You know, ‘We in psychiatry and mental health know what we’re doing is safe. This is safe, this is safe, this is safe,’ and having my life practically destroyed,” she told colleagues at the hearing. “I see the new ads on TV about, ‘Oh, your distracted mother, calm her down with this drug!’ That’s a drug that’s prohibited in nursing homes, because it’s used to keep their behaviors in line. And it causes early, premature death. But, you know, give it to mom because she needs to be calmed down!”

“But the FDA is really actively involved in working on it,” she continued, “and I think that [Vermont should be] following their lead rather than saying, you know, we need to jump the gun potentially.”

Both MDMA and psilocybin have been granted breakthrough therapy status by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and recent clinical trials have MDMA on pace for possible FDA approval later this year.

House passage of the psychedelics working group bill comes on the heels of the House’s approval earlier this week of H.72, which would legalize and fund a Burlington facility where people could use currently prohibited substances in a medically supervised environment. But Gov. Phil Scott (R), who vetoed an 2022 measure that would have created a task force to study overdose prevention centers, has indicated he’s not on board with the plan.

If enacted, the legislation would create an overdose prevention center (OPC) Burlington, with $1.1 million in funding plus another $300,000 to study the study the impact of the pilot project. The OPC would need to have on-site professionals with training in CPR, overdose interventions, first aid and wound care, as well as medical assessments to determine the need for further emergency care.

Vermont would join Rhode Island and Minnesota in authorizing the facilities.

Lawmakers in a growing number of states have considered psychedelics legislation this session, with many focusing on psilocybin reform and increased research.

This week in Alaska, for example, a Senate panel advanced a House-passed measure that would create a state task force to study how to license and regulate psychedelic-assisted therapy in the event of federal approval of substances such as MDMA and psilocybin

Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,400 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.

In Maryland, the Senate and House of Delegates have both passed legislation to create a psychedelics task force responsible for studying possible regulatory frameworks for therapeutic access to substances such as psilocybin, mescaline and DMT, sending the proposal to Gov Wes Moore (D). It would be charged specifically with ensuring “broad, equitable and affordable access to psychedelic substances” in the state.

Indiana’s governor recently signed a bill that includes provisions to fund clinical research trials into psilocybin.

Utah’s governor, meanwhile, 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.

Maine lawmakers sent the governor legislation to establish a commission tasked with studying and making recommendations on regulating access to psychedelic services.

An Arizona House panel also approved a Senate-passed bill to legalize psilocybin service centers where people could receive the psychedelic in a medically supervised setting.

A Connecticut joint legislative panel approved a bill to decriminalize possession of psilocybin.

bipartisan bill to legalize psychedelic service centers in California has cleared two Senate committees.

The governor of New Mexico 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.

An Illinois committee also recently held a hearing to discuss a bill to legalize psilocybin and allow regulated access at service centers in the state where adults could use the psychedelic in a supervised setting—with plans to expand the program to include mescaline, ibogaine and DMT.

Lawmakers in Hawaii also considered a bill that would provide some legal protections to patients engaging in psilocybin-assisted therapy with a medical professional’s approval.

New York lawmakers said that a bill to legalize psilocybin-assisted therapy in that state has a “real chance” of passing this year.

A Nevada joint legislative committee held a hearing with expert and public testimony on the therapeutic potential of substances like psilocybin in January. 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 also 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. Separately, an initiative that would legalize psychedelics may appear on the November ballot if lawmakers decline to independently enact it first.

Currently, there are no psychedelic drugs that are federally approved to prescribe as medicine. But that could soon change, as FDA recently agreed to review a new drug application for MDMA-assisted therapy on an expedited basis.

At the start of this year, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) separately issued a request for applications to conduct in-depth research on the use of psychedelics to treat PTSD and depression.

In October, the agency also launched a new podcast about the future of veteran health care, and the first episode of the series focuses on the healing potential of psychedelics.

FDA also recently joined scientists at a public meeting on next steps for conducting research to develop psychedelic medicines. That came months after the agency issued historic draft guidance on psychedelics studies, providing scientists with a framework to carry out research that could lead to the development of novel medicines.

Meanwhile in Congress last week, a House panel approved GOP-led bill that would instruct VA to notify Congress if any psychedelics are added to its formulary of covered prescription drugs.

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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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