Virginia Subcommittee Approves Psilocybin Rescheduling Bill
Virginia Sen. Ghazala Hashmi’s bill, Senate Bill 932, recently passed in the Senate Education and Health Subcommittee on Jan. 25. Hashmi spoke to the subcommittee about what the bill offers, including how many psilocybin bills are being introduced across the country, and the importance of allowing psilocybin for patients.
“Mr. Chairman, this is SB-932 which addresses the issue of helping our community members who are in need of medication to address PTSD and depression issues but the other medications are not really assisting them and helping them to take care of their critical needs,” Hashmi said at the meeting. “Last year I had introduced a bill to decriminalize psilocybin, which has been proven to be quite effective in treating PTSD as well as depression issues, particularly among our military veterans. There’s increasingly compelling research coming out of Johns Hopkins [University], from Stanford, to demonstrate how effective the product is in the treatment of these particular concerns. There are many states that have already moved to decriminalize psilocybin and have seen good and effective results by doing so.”
The bill proposes the creation of the Virginia Psilocybin Advisory Board, which would take full responsibility in creating a “long-term strategic plan for establishing therapeutic access to psilocybin services and monitor and study federal laws, regulations, and policies regarding psilocybin.” It would also keep the advisory council accountable by setting an annual deadline of Dec. 1 each year to report to the governor and general assembly regarding “its activities and recommendations.” Finally, if passed it would reclassify psilocybin from a Schedule I to a Schedule III substance.
Additionally, the bill would direct the governor to appoint 12 members to the board, including a mycologist, a clinical researcher, and other public health and safety officials.
Currently, possession of a Schedule I substance, such as psilocybin, is a Class 5 felony that can lead to up to 10 years in prison and a $2,500 fine. Under SB-932, psilocybin would be a Class 1 misdemeanor, which can result in up to one year in prison and a $2,500 fine.
On Jan. 18, the Senate House of Justice subcommittee voted against passing House Bill 1513, a different bill that also aimed to establish a regulatory framework for psilocybin as a treatment for medical conditions such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. This was reintroduced by Virginia Del. Dawn Adams after a previous iteration failed in 2022.
Psilocybin legislation really took off in 2022, and that momentum is continuing into 2023.
California Sen. Scott Wiener introduced legislation to decriminalize psilocybin and other plant-based psychedelics with Senate Bill 58 in late December, which did not pass. In Connecticut, House Bill 5102 aims to allow psilocybin for therapeutic purposes. Rep. La Shawn Ford, introduced as House Bill 0001 on Jan. 12, would regulate psilocybin in Illinois. Missouri Rep. Tony Lovasco recently introduced House Bill 869 last week, an updated version of his bill from last year, which would allow psilocybin therapy. New Jersey Senate President Nicholas Scutari’s bill from 2022, Bill S2934, is being brought over into 2023 in an attempt to decriminalize psilocybin, as well as introduce expungement efforts. More bills are being introduced in Minnesota, Montana, and New York as well. Even legislators in Oregon, where two ballot measures were approved by voters to legalize psilocybin in 2020, are continuing to file new bills to fine tune and improve the state’s psilocybin law.
According to a study published by the American Medical Association in December 2022, most states will have legalized psychedelics between 2034 and 2037. “Legislative reform for psychedelic drugs has been proceeding in a rapid, patchwork fashion in the US,” the researchers stated in their conclusion. “Further consideration should be given to key health care issues such as establishing (1) standards for drugs procured outside the medical establishment, (2) licensure criteria for prescribers and therapists, (3) clinical and billing infrastructure, (4) potential contraindications, and (5) use in special populations like youths, older adults, and pregnant individuals.”