Lawmakers in Connecticut and Florida have filed new bills to reform state laws on psilocybin mushrooms—the latest in a trend of psychedelics proposals to emerge in 2021.
Rep. Michael Grieco (D) filed the Florida legislation on Thursday, which would establish a legal psilocybin model for therapeutic use in the state, similar to an initiative that Oregon voters approved in November. It also seeks to deprioritize criminal enforcement against a wide range of psychedelic plants and fungi.
The Connecticut bill, sponsored by Rep. Josh Elliot (D) and four other legislators, would simply create a task force responsible for studying the medical benefits of psilocybin, the main psychoactive ingredient in so-called magic mushrooms.
The main objective of the broader Florida legislation is to promote mental health treatment with the help of psilocybin.
The substance “has shown efficacy, tolerability, and safety in the treatment of a variety of mental health conditions, including, but not limited to, addiction, depression, anxiety disorders, and end-of-life psychological distress,” the bill states, adding that Florida has “one of the highest prevalence rates of mental illness among adults in the nation.”
If approved, the Department of Health would be responsible for implementing regulations to allow people 21 and older to access psilocybin at licensed facilities where they would undergo therapeutic sessions in a clinical setting. An advisory board would be established within the department to make regulatory recommendations.
Among the bill’s priorities are to “educate the public about the safe and effective use of psilocybin,” “reduce the prevalence of mental illness,” create a long-term plan to facilitate psilocybin therapy and redirect police resources away from criminalizing people over psychedelics.
To accomplish that latter goal, the bill says the state’s law enforcement department “shall make the investigation and arrest of persons 18 years of age or older engaged in noncommercial planting, cultivating, purchasing, transporting, distributing, engaging in practices with, or possessing entheogenic plants and fungi one of its lowest enforcement priorities.”
That includes “any plant or fungus of any species in which ibogaine, dimethyltryptamine, mescaline, peyote, psilocybin, or psilocin occurs naturally in any form,” the legislation states.
Regulators would also be responsible for compiling research into the risks and benefits of psilocybin and publishing their findings a public site. The proposal also calls on the health department to determine whether the psychedelic products should be tracked seed-to-sale using the same system that the state’s medical marijuana program utilizes.
“Florida does not have to be the last state to catch up with science every time,” Grieco said in a press release. “Between medical marijuana and climate change, our state seems to never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. The science regarding psilocybin is real, cannot be ignored, and soon will be a universally-accepted form of treatment in the U.S.”
“Veterans and veterans organizations should be watching closely on behalf of folks suffering from addiction, PTSD and depression,” he said. “I recognize that I have authored a very ambitious 59-page bill, but the conversation needs to start somewhere, and I am ready to work with both my Republican and Democrat colleagues to create a framework designed to help those patients who need it.”
One especially ambitious provision of the legislation concerns federal enforcement. It says that federal prosecutors “shall cease prosecution of residents of the state” for cultivating, possessing or using entheogenic plants.
Grieco told Marijuana Moment that he recognizes the state can’t mandate that federal prosecutors adopt that policy, but “we can ask.”
The Food and Drug Administration “has already approved its use for two scenarios,” he said, referring to the agency’s designation of psilocybin as a breakthrough therapy. “It was filed as-is to be ambitious but anything that moves in the process is a good thing. Would have to be greatly watered down to move.”
It remains to be seen when the bill might receiving a hearing. The lawmaker said he has “a couple more bills to file before I sit down with leadership to try to move anything.”
Over in Connecticut, the newly filed psilocybin bill is much more limited in scope. The text of the legislation calls for “the general statutes be amended to establish a task force to study the health benefits of psilocybin.”
Both of these proposals come on the heels of a Senate bill being introduced in Hawaii that would also establish a medical model for the lawful use of psilocybin for therapeutic purposes. And in New Jersey, legislators recently passed a bill that would reduce criminal penalties for possession of the psychedelic.
These proposals can be viewed as a sign of the broader impact that local reform advocates behind a growing movement to decriminalize entheogenic plants and fungi are achieving. Activists have said that they hoped their local successes would move the conversation, inspiring legislatures and even Congress to take the issue seriously.
This trend can be traced back to Denver, where voters approved a first-in-the-nation initiative to decriminalize psilocybin in 2019. That was proceeded by a wave of city-level reforms, with Oakland, Santa Cruz, Ann Arbor, Washington, D.C. and Somerville, Massachusetts enacting policies to deprioritize enforcement of laws against psychedelics.
A California state senator also plans to file a bill to decriminalize psychedelics for the 2021 session. And lawmakers in New York, Virginia and Washington State are pushing broader reforms concerning the decriminalization of all drugs, similar to a separate ballot measure that Oregon voters approved in November.
Meanwhile, a recently formed organization—the Plant Medicine Coalition—is hoping to build on the localized momentum and bring the fight to Congress, lobbying lawmakers first to appropriate money to study the benefits of psychedelics and then to pursue broader reform.
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