Arizona would spend $30 million to research psychedelic mushrooms as a treatment for a variety of disorders under a bipartisan proposal at the state capitol.
House Bill 2486 is groundbreaking not only because it would enable such research, but also because it would lead to peer-reviewed research into the effects of natural psilocybin mushrooms, rather than a synthetic version of the drug commonly used in such studies is used.
Psilocybin is the psychoactive compound found in many types of mushrooms used by people recreationally and, increasingly, medicinally. It is a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act, which means that the Drug Enforcement Administration does not currently recognize any medical use for it.
The bill is part of a wave of similar proposals and actions across the country as states open the door to treating people with psilocybin and exploring its potential to help with conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and addiction.
HB 2486 would require the Department of Health to form a committee to review research grant applications to study the effects of psilocybin on 13 health problems.
In addition, the state would have to fund $30 million for such grants.
The main sponsor is Rep. Kevin Payne, R-Peoria. Co-sponsors are Reps. Jennifer Longdon, D-Phoenix and Stacey Travers, D-Phoenix. Sen. TJ Shope, R-Coolidge, has also signed up.
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“We try to collect objective data”
dr Sue Sisley of the Scottsdale Research Institute helped draft the bill and said it’s important to allow objective nonprofits and universities to test natural psilocybin because many people in the illicit market are accessing it to treat themselves.
“We don’t have an agenda here. We’re not trying to make psilocybin legal. We’re trying to gather objective data on the good and bad of it,” Sisley said. “We don’t want it to end up like cannabis, where the industry was created before there was hardcore science.”
She said that while millions of people around the world use mushrooms, there is insufficient research on the synthetic form of the drug to draw any conclusions about how natural mushrooms affect people.
Most of the research on the effects of real mushrooms containing psilocybin is based on surveys, “which is worthless when it comes to moving the public policy needle”.
She said she expected bipartisan support.
“Trauma healing and the list of things that might be explored under the bill are really bipartisan issues,” Sisley said. “We’re dealing with an epidemic of veteran suicide in this country and we don’t have good solutions on how to curb it.”
Bill sponsors promote the potential to help people
Payne pointed to the potential benefits of psilocybin when declaring his support.
“The GOP has often fought for medical freedom, defied FDA over-regulation and pushed for right-to-try legislation,” Payne said in a prepared statement on the bill. “Arizonanes, especially veterans, deserve alternatives to dangerous and addictive recipes. This bill will help.”
Lawmakers also emphasized that research would focus on veterans and first responders.
“This law will put Arizona at the forefront of psilocybin research,” Shope said in a prepared statement. “We owe it to our veterans to find ways to lead healthy, normal lives.”
The DHS Council would award money
The state would award research grants each July when the bill goes into effect, and researchers hoping to participate would have to agree to use “veterans, first responders, frontline health workers” and people from underserved communities as research subjects .
The advisory board, which would determine what research projects would be funded, would have to include a physician with a federal license to study psychedelics, a military veteran, a law enforcement official, a university researcher, and the director of the Department of Health, who would serve as chairs.
Similar proposals are gaining traction across the country as public attitudes toward psilocybin ebb and public health advocates tout the possibilities of treating people with it.
- Missouri lawmakers may consider a Republican bill this year that would allow people with mental illness therapeutic access to psilocybin.
- New Hampshire lawmakers may consider legislation to decriminalize psychedelics, including psilocybin, for people 21 and older.
- The Virginia legislature is considering a bill allowing for the medicinal use of psilocybin, but a panel voted against it.
- Oregon now allows adult use of psilocybin after voters approved the change in 2020, and in November voters in Colorado approved the drug’s use. Several cities in other states have also decriminalized it.
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