Psilocybin therapy prompts states to reconsider laws about 'magic mushrooms'

·4 min read

President Joe Biden's administration is looking to explore the emerging research of psilocybin to treat a variety of mental health illnesses as states decriminalize and legalize the substance for medical uses.

The administration anticipates the FDA will approve MDMA (methyl​enedioxymethamphetamine) and psilocybin as treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression within the next two years and is "exploring the prospect of establishing a Federal Task Force" to monitor the drugs, according to a letter Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, the assistant secretary for mental health and substance use at Health and Human Services, sent to Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa.

States have updated laws on psilocybin on their own, as they did with cannabis but at a much quicker pace, said Beau Kilmer, director of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center.

"About a dozen jurisdictions have made (legislative) changes just over the past couple of years, and this is a little bit different from what we saw in cannabis," Kilmer told USA TODAY.

"You had a longer timeline with cannabis, and all of a sudden with psychedelics, you're now seeing that timeline kind of compressed. A lot of this change has already happened just within the past couple of years," he said.

Here are the latest state efforts: 

California

  • A proposal to decriminalize psilocybin and legalize its use for mental health treatment cleared California's Senate chamber and advanced through the California Assembly during the 2021 session before it was halted. The bill would have decriminalized psilocybin for those 21 and older and legalized psilocybin for medical treatments by qualified health professionals.

  • Activists tried to push a measure to decriminalize psilocybin and legalize its use for mental health purposes on the state’s ballot in November. The measure failed to get the necessary signatures.

►Psilocybin therapy: Magic mushrooms can lead to long-term improvements in depression, study finds

Colorado

  • Following the footsteps of Denver, Colorado may decriminalize psilocybin, legalize its use and establish regulations around the manufacturing and purchasing of the substance through the state’s Initiative 58, otherwise known as the Natural Medicine Health Act. Coloradans will take up the initiative on their ballots in November.

  • The measure stresses the uses psilocybin has for addressing mental health conditions. The initiative outlines a natural medicine access program, which would regulate the manufacturing, cultivation, testing, storage, transfer, transport, delivery, sale and purchase of psilocybin products between healing centers and other authorized entities.

  • Denver was the first city to deprioritize enforcement of laws related to psilocybin after voters approved an ordinance in 2019.

►Fully fruited mushrooms: From NFL QB to farmer: Jake Plummer's life-altering journey into the queendom of fungi

In addition to their hallucinogenic effects, psilocybin mushrooms (also known as "magic mushrooms") may play a role in the treatment of mental health issues.
In addition to their hallucinogenic effects, psilocybin mushrooms (also known as "magic mushrooms") may play a role in the treatment of mental health issues.

Connecticut

  • Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont signed a measure last year that established a working group to research the benefits of psilocybin and determine whether application under medical care is beneficial to an individual’s physical and mental well-being.

  • The state approved legislation this year that allocated funds for a pilot program that will provide qualified patients psilocybin-assisted therapy under medical instruction. The bill defines qualified patients as a resident of the state who is a veteran, retired first responder or direct care health worker.

►Psilocybin therapy: People who used 'magic mushrooms' less likely to develop opioid use disorder, study finds

Oregon

  • Oregon was the first state to legalize access to psilocybin through Measure 109 in 2020. The bill legalized the use and administration of psilocybin for mental health purposes, and it details how to regulate, tax and sell the substance. The measure established the Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board and regulatory framework within the Oregon Health Authority.

  • The bill established a two-year development period in which the Oregon Health Authority, alongside the advisory board, will determine the rules, training and licensing requirements. After the development period – set to begin in 2023 – the state’s health authority will accept and issue licenses to manufacture psilocybin products.

A sign proclaims support for a 2020 ballot measure that legalized the controlled, therapeutic use of psilocybin mushrooms in Oregon.
A sign proclaims support for a 2020 ballot measure that legalized the controlled, therapeutic use of psilocybin mushrooms in Oregon.

►Psychedelics: Aaron Rodgers credits ayahuasca for his MVPs: What is the psychedelic drug?

Washington

  • Lawmakers are working on a bill that would decriminalize psilocybin. Seattle took that step in 2021. If “supported adult use” of the substance is legalized, psilocybin products would be distributed and administered by a licensed individual at an authorized facility.

  • The proposed legislation aims to “improve the physical, mental, and social well-being of all people in this state, and to reduce the prevalence of behavioral health disorders among adults” through access to psilocybin.

  • The legislation would establish an 18-month development period for the state to determine a comprehensive regulatory framework in manufacturing and distributing psilocybin products and ensure products were not distributed to unauthorized individuals, including those under 18, or among other states.

►Psychedelic therapy: The next big trend in mental health treatments? Psychedelic therapy.

More coverage for USA TODAY subscribers

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Psilocybin therapy in states helping legalize magic mushrooms in US