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Bring On the Psychedelics: States Looking to Reform Policy in 2023

Psychedelics reform
Written by Sarah Friedman

2020 brought us Oregon and the first legalization for psychedelic mushrooms in the US. 2022 brought us Colorado doing the same, but with more compounds legalized, and a separate pre-emptive legalization for MDMA. Now, it’s a new year, so let’s take a look at which states are looking to reform their psychedelics policies, going into 2023.

The first two: Oregon and Colorado

In the 2020 elections, Oregon put Measure 109 and Measure 110 to the voters, both of which passed, with 55.75%, and 58.46% of the vote, respectively. The first law is a measure to legalize some use of psilocybin mushrooms, and the second is a decriminalization measure for the personal possession of illicit drugs. Together they make for a full drug decriminalization in the state, as well as a drug legalization under certain parameters.

The parameters were made more clear in 2022 upon the release of rules for the new industry. For one thing, the legalization only covers psilocybin mushrooms, and of those mushrooms, only one species: Psilocybe cubensis. Furthermore, all legal use must be done in a certified center under the watchful eye of a non-medical tripsitter. Different municipalities have the option of opting out of this allowance.

In the 2022 elections, Colorado joined in as the second state to legalize some form of  a psychedelic, though Colorado went a bit further. Instead of focusing on just psilocybin mushrooms, the state made it about entheogenic plants as part of a natural medicine program, though not all medicinal plants are a part of this. It includes the compounds: psilocybin, psilocin, DMT, mescaline (minus Peyote), and ibogaine. It also sets up regulation for trip centers, but does allow administration of the compounds outside of this. It decriminalizes use of these compounds outside legal administration.

Colorado made it so that when the measure passed, the entire state was obligated to oblige. Unlike Oregon, no individual locations have the ability to say no, making for a standard law throughout the state. Colorado also was the first state to pass a pre-emptive legalization for medical MDMA. This legalization lies in wait for a federal legalization first, and has no power until that happens. When it does, Colorado is set to go with regulations for its medical MDMA industry.


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States to watch for psychedelics reform in 2023 – California and Washington

California and Washington are both coming off of failed psychedelics bills in the previous year. And both are already back with new bills to offer, both of which have been tweaked to create more passable versions in the hopes of having a better chance this time around.

California is offering SB 58 as an improved version of SB 519. SB 519 didn’t actually die like other failed bills, but instead was intentionally pulled by its creator, Sen. Scott Wiener. SB 519 would have decriminalized the possession of both natural and synthetic compounds, as well as legalizing medical use for patients in need, and mandating further research. The new SB 58 narrows its scope to the same five compounds as Colorado: psilocybin, psilocin, DMT, ibogaine, and mescaline; with synthetics like LSD and MDMA removed. It omits the research requirement.

As the previous bill passed the Senate in California, as well as its first two Assembly committees, there’s plenty of reason this newer version should also do well. Wiener pulled the previous bill because of the edits made to it, which downgraded it to nothing more than a research initiative; taking out everything else. The hope is that with the scope minimized to just the chosen entheogenic plants, the bill will pass through.

Washington is coming back with SB 5263 to take the place of the failed SB 5660. Some of the revisions to this new bill include a longer implementation time of 24 months, to make sure everything goes smoothly; greater worker protections for those administering the drugs; the requirement of group sessions for drug administration; the ability for administration outside of a service center (like Colorado); greater privacy for users; and no maximum doses under 50mg. It also doesn’t allow individual locations to opt-out.

One of the other things this new bill does, is move away from the standards of tripsitting that have thus far been employed by the two legal states. Washington will instead require a new license that is earned with 120 classroom hours, and 250 practice hours. In comparison, Oregon only mandated tripsitters to go through 40 hours of training.

Classroom training for tripsitting license
Classroom training for tripsitting license

Other states looking for psychedelics reform in 2023 – CT, IL, NY

The psychedelics industry is moving at breakneck speeds, going from a snowball to an avalanche in no time at all. Connecticut is one state looking for psychedelics reform in 2023. It’s doing so with a bill (H.B. No. 5102) which legalizes “the use of psilocybin for medicinal and therapeutic purposes, including, but not limited to, the provision of physical, mental or behavioral health care.” The bill is being spearheaded by democratic democratic Representative David Michel, who had this to say:

“Decriminalizing will help end the targeting of certain communities… and authorizing psilocybin for medical and therapeutical use, I believe, is key when mental health is at an all-time low.” He went on, that “It’s more needed than ever,” and that its senseless to be “constantly going through pharmaceutical products when nature-based approaches can be very effective.”

Illinois is another state looking for psychedelics reform in 2023. In the beginning of January, democratic Representative La Shawn Ford pre-filed the Compassionate Use and Research of Entheogens Act. This law would take psilocybin out of the controlled substances list of the state, and create an advisory board concerning therapeutic services for the compound. According to Ford, this bill, which would also expunge criminal records, is a main point for the season.

New York also wants in on psychedelics reform for this year. Democratic Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal pre-filed a bill early in January to legalize some entheogenic plants for an adult-use market of 21 and above. State statutes would be updated to allow 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.”

The wording of the bill means inclusion of the standards like psilocybin, DMT, and mescaline, and could work to legalize more if not naming the drugs specifically. The bill would open up an industry of psychedelics services, and allow use of the plants in religious ceremonies (something that already applies to mescaline.)

Even more states looking to get in on it in 2023 – NJ, MO, VA, MO, MN, NH

No, we’re not done, there are several more states looking for psychedelics reform in 2023. Like New Jersey. Democratic Senate President Nicholas Scutari filed a bill last year that’s still in play. The bill would legalize not just the possession of psilocybin mushrooms, but their cultivation as well. Like most others of its kind, it would seek to set up locations where psilocybin services could be administered. New Jersey already signed off on a bill in 2021 to substantially reduce penalties for up to one ounce of psilocybin possession.

In Missouri, Representative Tony Lovasco re-filed a previously failed bill for psychedelics reform (HB 869), on January 18th of this year. The revised version would set up psilocybin service centers for issues like treatment-resistant PTSD and depression, and would require a doctor’s recommendation. Said Lovasco to Marijuana Moment, “We’re going to have to limit it to psilocybin initially as that’s what we have the most data and research on.”

psychedelics reform to allow psilocybin
psychedelics reform to allow psilocybin

Virginia also has a take on how to reform the issue. Out of several initiatives in the state, one of the most promising is from democratic Delegate Dawn Adams who put forth HB 1513, which would legalize psilocybin for “refractory depression or post-traumatic stress disorder or to ameliorate end-of-life anxiety.” All requiring a doctor’s prescription. The law comes with provider protections, and decriminalizes the non-medical use of the drug as well. Adams has yet another bill in play (HB 898) to decriminalize a host of psychedelic compounds.

A third bill in the state, filed by democratic Senator Ghazala Hashmi (SB 932), moves psilocybin from schedule I to schedule III. This bill would also seek to set up strategies for setting up psilocybin clinical services via a Virginia Psilocybin Advisory Board.

Next up is Montana which hasn’t released anything yet, but is working on two bills so far this year. The first would legalize medical psilocybin for psychiatric purposes. The second one is simply to set up a research initiative about psychedelics for medical use in general. Both are still in the draft stage.

Minnesota isn’t missing out, with a bill also in draft stage by democratic Representative Andy Smith. This bill would legalize, in some capacity, medical psychedelics. According to Smith, “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.” No official bill is released yet.

Last up? New Hampshire. On January 5th, republican Representative Kevin Verville submit HB 328 which would institute an adult use market of 21 and above for a number of psychedelic compounds including synthetics like LSD, and entheogenic plants like psilocybin. The bill actually isn’t more specific than this in terms of exactly which drugs it applies to. Beyond creating an adult-use market for these drugs, it would work to lower penalties for the manufacture, possession, and sale of LSD and PCP.

LSD
LSD

Conclusion

It’s unlikely that all of the psychedelics reform bills for 2023 will go through, but some of them should. And then next year? Even more. The psychedelics world is really opening up, and within a few years we can easily expect the landscape to look very, very different.

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About the author

Sarah Friedman

I look stuff up and and write stuff down, in order to make sense of the world around. And I travel a lot too.

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