As the 2023 legislative sessions kick off in statehouses across the country, there are bills on tap in at least four states aimed at legalizing possession and governing the use of plant- and fungus-derived psychedelic substances.
In New York on Wednesday, state Rep. Linda B. Rosenthal, Democrat of Manhattan, introduced A.B. 114, which would legalize the possession of five psychedelic substances that are found in plants and fungus: psilocybin; psilocyn; dimethyltryptamine, or DMT; ibogaine; and mescaline, excluding mescaline derived from the peyote cactus.
The bill includes provisions barring state and local law enforcement from assisting federal drug enforcers in going after activity protected by the legislation and provides that someone with a professional or occupational license should not have their status threatened for personal use and possession of these substances.
The bill would also allow local municipalities to implement their own policies "in furtherance of this law," while protecting employees from adverse action if they use the substances on their own time and off their employers' premises.
This is not the first psychedelic liberalization bill in the Empire State.
In the previous session, a New York lawmaker introduced a bill to legalize the medical use of psilocybin to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, alcohol dependence and anxiety, among other ailments. A.B. 8569, sponsored by state Rep. Patrick Burke, an Erie County Democrat, was referred to the Assembly Committee on Health, where it remained at the close of the 2022 session.
In neighboring New Jersey, more narrowly tailored legislation has been introduced in both chambers that would decriminalize psilocybin and allow for its personal use and distribution, as well as expunge certain convictions.
The Psilocybin Behavioral Health Access and Services Act, introduced in the state Assembly in December as A.B. 4911 and the Senate last summer as S.B. 2934, would develop a regulatory scheme for the Department of Health to administer psilocybin treatment centers to patients age 21 and over.
The bills prescribe an 18-month development program for the new regulations, during which a governor-appointed 12-person board would advise regulators on best practices and how to balance public health and safety concerns, and expressly forbid any county or municipality from levying taxes or fees on the manufacture or sale of psilocybin or the provision of psilocybin services.
Meanwhile, in California, a state senator is taking a second shot at a piece of legislation that would decriminalize possession and personal use of certain psychedelic drugs.
Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, told Law360 in December that he is "cautiously optimistic" about passage of the bill, which would allow for statewide individual use of a number of drugs that have the potential to treat an array of disorders, but particularly those related to mental health and substance abuse. The lawmaker said that psychedelics provide "some of the most promising treatments we have for PTSD, anxiety, depression and addiction."
The reintroduced bill, S.B. 58 would allow for the personal possession of five psychedelic substances: psilocybin, psilocyn, DMT, ibogaine and mescaline. As with the New York bill, mescaline derived from peyote would not be legalized for general adult use under the law.
Peyote-derived mescaline is considered a sacrament in some Native American religious ceremonies. Indigenous activists have lobbied the psychedelic legalization movement and nascent psychedelic industry to establish guardrails that would preserve Indigenous access to the plant against a wave of new interests.
The legislation would legalize possession of up to four grams of the substances by persons age 21 or older. The bill would also create new civil and criminal penalties for giving psychedelics to underage people.
A previous version of the bill passed the state Senate in June 2021, but stalled in the state Assembly, moving to the chamber's inactive file in August 2022.
"The bill came very close to passing last year," Wiener told Law360. "We were cautiously optimistic. What tripped it up was the chair just gutted the bill and made it not worth passing. We are trying again."
Finally, in Montana, Democratic state Sen. Jill Cohenour has initiated the drafting process for a bill to legalize psilocybin for treatment of PTSD and other mental illnesses. The request for a draft was submitted on Nov. 15 to the state Legislative Services Division's Office of Research and Policy Analysis, and there is not currently any text available for the bill.
"I'm hoping to be able to change the culture around using psilocybin under controlled circumstances, inpatient, for the treatment of PTSD and other illnesses that show promise," Cohenour told Law360. "Some success has been shown in this treatment, and I believe anything that we can use to treat devastating mental illnesses that often result in suicide should be available to the medical system in Montana."