A Washington State bill to promote research into psilocybin and create a pilot program to provide therapeutic access to the psychedelic for mental health treatment is heading to the governor’s desk following final approval in the Senate.
The chamber first passed the legislation from Sens. Jesse Salomon (D) and Liz Lovelett (D) last month, and the House advanced it with an amendment to form the pilot program last week. The Senate concurred with that change on Friday in a 40-4 vote.
Now the bill is on its way to Gov. Jay Inslee (D), who has previously expressed some openness to psychedelics reform.
“The amendments before us improve the bill,” Salomon told Senate colleagues prior to the vote on concurrence.
As introduced earlier this session, the measure would have more broadly legalized psilocybin, allowing people 21 and older to access the psychedelic under the care of licensed facilitators. But it was significantly watered down at the Senate committee stage to only provide for a task force and advisory group to study the reform. Those changes reportedly came after pushback from the governor’s office about the broad scope of the original bill.
Later, on the House side, Rep. Nicole Macri (D) modestly expanded the legislation with her committee amendment. As adopted and concurred with, the bill now calls for the creation of a pilot program to allow the University of Washington (UW) to provide access to the psychedelic for military veterans and first responders in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and mood and substance use disorders.
The UW clinical pilot program would need to “offer psilocybin therapy services through pathways approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA),” the bill says.
In addition to the pilot program, the measure would create a Psilocybin Advisory Board, an Interagency Psilocybin Work Group and a Psilocybin Task Force.
The work group would be charged with, among other things, “developing a comprehensive regulatory framework for a regulated psilocybin system, including a process to ensure clean and pesticide-free psilocybin products,” according to a summary of the bill. It would also review research on the psychedelic as well as indigenous practices with it, and would take steps to ensure that a social opportunity program is included within any eventual licensing system “to remedy the targeted enforcement of drug-related laws on overburdened communities.”
There’s been some pushback to the scaled back reform, with certain advocates expressing concern that the bill could give lawmakers an excuse to delay consideration of more comprehensive legalization while the psilocybin studies are conducted.
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Drug policy reform has been a hot topic in the Washington legislature this session. For example, lawmakers passed another bill last week that would allow the governor to enter into agreements with other legal marijuana states to engage in interstate cannabis commerce, pending a federal policy change.
Another bill to prevent employers from discriminating against job applicants based on marijuana use has also cleared both chambers; however, the Senate on Friday declined to concur with House amendments and asked the opposite chamber to abandon the revisions.
With respect to psychedelics, Washington State is joining a rapidly expanding number of states where legislators are pursuing reform this year.
For example, a Nevada Senate committee approved a revised bill last week that would create a new working group to study psychedelics and develop a plan to allow regulated access for therapeutic purposes.
The Hawaii Senate approved a bill last week to create an advisory council to look into possible regulations to provide access to federal “breakthrough therapies” like psilocybin and MDMA.
Minnesota lawmakers recently attached the provisions of a bill to create a psychedelics task force that would prepare the state for possible legalization to large-scale omnibus health legislation that could reach the House floor soon.
A Republican Massachusetts lawmaker has filed three new psychedelics reform bills, including proposals to legalize substances like psilocybin and reschedule MDMA pending federal approval while setting a price cap on therapeutic access.
Those are just a few examples of the types of reforms that legislators across the country are considering this session.
An analysis published in an American Medical Association journal last year concluded that a majority of states will legalize psychedelics by 2037, based on statistical modeling of policy trends.
A national poll published last month found that a majority of U.S. voters support legal access to psychedelics therapy and back federally decriminalizing substances like psilocybin and MDMA.