Alternative medicine is becoming more widely acknowledged and practiced than ever before, opening the door for therapies like psychedelics to enter the world of mainstream healthcare. One psychedelic that’s been getting a whole lot of attention lately is psilocybin, an active ingredient in mushroom species that are often called “magic mushrooms.”
Psilocybin is a naturally occurring psychedelic prodrug compound produced by more than 200 species of fungi. Using psilocybin in small doses, or microdosing, has been shown to aid in the treatment of various mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, PTSD, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Other positive benefits of psilocybin reported improved mood, less fear of the future, increased sense of spirituality and connection, and enhanced quality of life.
The use of magic mushrooms is nothing new. Historians date the use of magic mushrooms back to the 16th century. Psilocybin therapy is both studied and used by highly legitimate medical establishments. In the United States, psilocybin was federally regulated and banned by the Drug Abuse Control Amendments of 1965 and is classified as a Schedule I drug.
Johns Hopkins University first received regulatory approval for psychedelic research in the year 2000. In 2006, the first research paper by Johns Hopkins was published on the positive long-term impact of using psilocybin in a therapeutic study.
Psilocybin Policies Around the Nation
Let’s explore where psilocybin is legal, decriminalized, and on the ballot across U.S. states.
Colorado and Oregon are the only states allowing legal therapeutic psilocybin use today. Both Colorado and Oregon allow patients to take psilocybin under the supervision of regulated and licensed “healing centers.”
Colorado has a wider range of psilocybin use. Colorado Proposition 122 approves the statewide personal use of psychedelic mushrooms for Colorado adults 21 years or older. The “Natural Medicine Health Act” also opens the door for Colorado to open its own state-regulated “healing centers” to help provide psychedelic therapy for those experiencing mental health problems.
Decriminalization does not mean psilocybin is legal. Instead, it essentially makes arrests for psilocybin the lowest priority for law enforcement. While decriminalization decreases the negative impact of legal issues, it does not provide accessible, safe, and regulated psilocybin for those seeking treatment.
- Washington, D.C.
On the Ballot
Some states are actively considering the legalization of psilocybin and other psychedelics.
Gov. Ned Lamont signed a bill (HB 5506) to fund psychedelic therapy. The state bill would start the process of legalizing centers for veterans and first responders to receive psilocybin and MDMA (a synthetic psychedelic) to treat mental health conditions like PTSD.
Florida presented two bills (SB 348 and HB 193). If passed, these bills would allow Florida researchers to study alternative treatments for mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, and PTSD using psilocybin, ketamine, and MDMA.
Illinois lawmakers presented a bill called the “Compassionate Use and Research of Entheogens Act.” This would allow the legalization of psilocybin by removing it from the state’s list of controlled substances and creating an advisory board to make recommendations on psilocybin therapeutic services. This bill would also facilitate expungements for people with certain psilocybin-related convictions on their records.
Maryland presented a bill that would create a $1 million fund to study alternative treatments for treating PTSD and traumatic brain injury (TBI) in military veterans.
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Rep. Andy Smith (D) stated that he is “working on a bill forming a psychedelic medicine task force so Minnesotans can access these life-affirming treatments. For decades scientific research into the positive effects of psychedelic medicine has been muzzled by the ‘war on drugs,’ but that is [starting] to change.” Smith cited results from clinical trials showing that MDMA holds promise in the treatment of PTSD.
Rep. Tony Lovasco’s psychedelics bill aims to provide therapeutic access to psilocybin for people with severe mental health conditions in the coming days. Lovasco said his forthcoming legislation had been modified from a broader version he introduced last year with input from a key committee. Last March, the earlier bill received a hearing in the House Health and Mental Health Policy Committee but did not advance.
In Montana, two pieces of psychedelics reform legislation are being drafted for introduction in the 2023 session in Montana. One would legalize psilocybin for therapeutic use in the treatment of PTSD and other mental health conditions, according to a description. The other would be more incremental, mandating an interim study about providing access to psychedelics for medical use.
In 2021, state lawmakers proposed a legalization bill for adult possession of natural psychedelics. New York lawmakers recently pre-filed a bill for 2023 to legalize certain psychedelics like psilocybin and ibogaine for adults 21 and older. This year, Linda Rosenthal (D) is sponsoring the legislation, which would amend state statutes to make legal the “possession, use, cultivation, production, creation, analysis, gifting, exchange, or sharing by or between natural persons of twenty-one years of age or older of a natural plant or fungus-based hallucinogen.”
New Jersey Senate introduced a bill that would legalize psilocybin to treat certain disorders. A bill filed by Senate President Nicholas Scutari (D) last year that’s been carried over into 2023 would legalize the possession, home cultivation, and gifting of psilocybin mushrooms for adults 21 and older.
In March 2022, Oklahoma state representatives presented a bill that, if approved, would allow clinical trials on psychedelics “in relation to depression, anxiety, opioid use disorder, and dementia.”
This year, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) allowed a bill (HB 1802) authorizing the study of psilocybin to become law without his signature. This bill authorized a psychedelic study “on the use of alternative therapies for treating post-traumatic stress disorder.”
In March 2022, Gov. Spencer Cox signed a bill to create a task force to study the “therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs and possible regulations for their lawful use.” Unfortunately, this bill did not pass.
There are multiple psychedelics proposals on the table for 2023. This includes a bill aimed at providing access to psilocybin for therapeutic use. This legislation from Del. Dawn Adams (D) would allow for the possession of psilocybin for people who’ve received a prescription or “order” from a health professional to treat “refractory depression or post-traumatic stress disorder or to ameliorate end-of-life anxiety.”
In January 2022, state legislators submitted a bill, the “Washington Psilocybin Wellness and Opportunity Act” (SB 5560), that would legalize the adult use of psilocybin for people 21 years or older.
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