If the federal government signs off on psilocybin, a pair of Rhode Island lawmakers want the state to be ready to benefit.
The bill under consideration would “decriminalize the use of so-called ‘magic mushrooms’ statewide,” according to local news station WPRI, although that would “[hinge] upon whether the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approves psilocybin as a treatment for chronic mental health disorders.”
“Veterans and many others in our community are struggling with chronic [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder], depression and other mental health disorders that can be totally debilitating,” said Democratic state House Rep. Brandon Potter, as quoted by WPRI. “We should give them the freedom to try every tool available and not criminalize a natural, effective remedy.”
Potter is sponsoring the measure along with state Sen. Meghan Kallman, also a Democrat. It’s familiar territory for Potter.
Last year, Potter proposed a bill that would have also decriminalized psilocybin, although there was no provision in that legislation on FDA approval.
According to WPRI, this year’s proposal “would require the Rhode Island Department of Health to regulate the use of psilocybin as a treatment should it be approved by the FDA.”
“Psilocybin is not addictive,” Kallman said, as quoted by WPRI. “It’s naturally occurring and people have been using it recreationally and medicinally for thousands of years.”
“It is only illegal because, over 50 years ago, President Nixon associated it with his political opponents,” she added. “It’s time to undo that mistake and give our neighbors struggling with chronic mental illness, and all Rhode Islanders, the freedom to use psilocybin responsibly.”
Mushrooms and other psychedelics are fast emerging as the next front for legalization advocates, as the science and medical community continues to uncover more encouraging findings about their ability to treat disorders.
The state of Oregon legalized psilocybin for therapy in 2020 after voters there approved a ballot measure. Two years later, voters in Colorado did the same.
The changes in laws have coincided with a shift in attitudes about the drugs.
A poll in 2020 from the research firm Green Horizons found that 38% of American adults believed that psilocybin mushrooms should be legal in at least certain circumstances.
“When it comes to psychedelics, there are many parallels with the movement to legalize cannabis. In both cases, education is paramount,” Adriana Waterston, Green Horizon’s SVP of Insights and Strategy, said at the time. “Psychedelics, like cannabis, have been tied to a negative, highly stigmatized image for many years. Science, however, is showing us that psychedelics demonstrate tremendous promise for certain chronic psychological illnesses, even those that have been treatment-resistant. As we continue to study psychedelics and evidence for their benefits mounts, we can expect support for legalization to follow.”
The poll found that 25% of Americans believed that psilocybin mushrooms should be legal under limited circumstances –– perhaps as a medical or religious practice –– while 13% think they should be legalized outright.
As WPRI noted, “Current federal law classifies psilocybin as a Schedule 1 drug alongside fentanyl and cocaine, both of which are highly addictive,” while state law in Rhode Island puts the hallucinogen in the same category as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine.”