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Texas the Latest State to Legalize Psychedelic Medical Research

June 23, 2021, 9:40 AM

Psychedelics are following cannabis into the mainstream of medicine, with Texas and Connecticut enacting laws this month allowing research into how psilocybin, the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms” might help people with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Texas) on June 18 allowed a bill (H.B. 1802) authorizing the study of psilocybin to become law without his signature. Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamott (D) on June 7 signed a bill (S.B. 1083) permitting psilocybin research in that state.

Oregon voters last year legalized psychedelics in licensed, supervised facilities, though treatment can’t take place until 2023, pending the development of regulations.

New “psychedelic-assisted therapies show tremendous promise” for treating illnesses that are resistant to other drugs, said Walter Greenleaf, a Stanford University neuroscientist and a medical technology developer.

Even before Connecticut and Texas acted, investors had taken notice of the pharmaceutical possibilities. At least three companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges have been touting psychedelics for the treatment of mental health disorders even though psilocybin and other hallucinogenic substances are illegal under federal law.

‘Breakthrough’

The Food & Drug Administration last year designated psilocybin therapy as a “breakthrough therapy,” an action “meant to accelerate and lower the barriers of the arduous process of drug development and review,” said Joe Tucker, CEO of the biotechnology company MagicMed Industries Inc., a unit of Enveric Biosciences.

Magic mushroom research is already underway at Johns Hopkins, where experiments found that psilocybin-assisted therapy could help patients with major depressive disorder, and at the University of California, San Francisco, which has a Translational Psychedelic Research (TrPR) Program.

In addition to psilocybin, the UCSF scientists are studying the possible medicinal use of LSD, ketamine, the drug known as ecstasy, and related compounds.

States as Laboratories

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) in February signed legislation (A5084/S3256) easing penalties for possession of up to an ounce of mushrooms, dropping the punishment to a disorderly persons offense punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine instead of up to five years in prison.

The Maine House of Representatives has passed a bill (L.D. 967) to decriminalize possession of all drugs including hallucinogens, and California’s state Senate has passed a bill (S.B. 519) that would decriminalize LSD, mushrooms, and similar substances. It’s up for a hearing June 29 in the Assembly Public Safety Committee.

“This approach moves us away from the failed war on drugs, which was based on the flawed, badly flawed, premise that criminalizing, arresting, prosecuting and imprisoning people for drugs will somehow deter their use and will somehow improve public safety,” bill author state Sen. Scott Wiener (D) said during floor debate.

The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies called California’s approach “the most expansive psychedelic policy reform to pass through a state chamber.”

“Lawmakers around the country are realizing that it is time for a change in psychedelic policy,” Ismail Lourido Ali, MAPS acting director, said in a written statement. “Seeing lawmakers in Texas pass a bill to research the risks and benefits of certain psychedelic substances is a sign that the public perception about psychedelics is being transformed from one of stigma to one of curiosity.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Joyce E. Cutler in San Francisco at jcutler@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Katherine Rizzo at krizzo@bgov.com; Karl Hardy at khardy@bloomberglaw.com

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