Texas lawmakers have filed a series of new bills aimed at promoting and expanding psychedelics research in the state.
The Lone Star State took some observers by surprise last session after the conservative legislature enacted a measure to study the therapeutic potential of psychedelics—and now more legislators are hoping to build on that momentum.
Three Democratic lawmakers in the state recently introduced separate reform proposals, including one that would expand the law that Gov. Greg Abbott (R) allowed to take effect without his signature in 2021. The other two bills would create entirely new psychedelics-focused government bodies in the state to facilitate studies.
Here’s an overview of the newly filed measures:
HB 4288: Rep. Richard Peña Raymond (D)
The bill would amend the existing psychedelics law, which mandated the state to study the medical risks and benefits of psilocybin, MDMA and ketamine for military veterans in partnership with Baylor College of Medicine and a military-focused medical center.
The legislation would add “a facility licensed in this state that provides ketamine-related mental health services” to the list of potential partners in that research. It would also make it so studies could focus on “other identified individuals,” in addition to just veterans.
Under the bill, the commission and the college would need to “prescribe standardized protocols for each researcher or research organization participating in the study.” And it would further extend the deadline for the commission to file its final report and recommendations by two years, to December 1, 2026.
HB 4423: Rep. Josey Garcia (D)
The legislation would create a new Psilocybin Research Advisory Council to advise the Health and Human Services Commission and the legislature on psilocybin research and treatment.
Members of the advisory council would need to be appointed by the executive commissioner of health and human services by December 31, 2023 and would, at a minimum, include a physician with a federal license to study psychedelics, a military veteran, a law enforcement officer, a psychedelics researcher and representatives of state agencies.
The bill would also create a grants program administered by the council to support Phase 1, 2 and 3 clinical trials using whole mushroom psilocybin to treat PTSD, long COVID, depression, anxiety, end-of-life stress, obsessive compulsive disorder, substance misuse, eating disorders, chronic pain and other conditions.
Grants would be awarded annually for a period of three years, and funded research would need to focus on veterans, first responders, frontline health care workers and people from underserved communities.
The council would make annual recommendations to the legislature on psychedelic-assisted therapy.
HB 4561: Rep. Julie Johnson (D)
The proposal would create a new Alternative Mental Health Therapy Research Consortium that would be charged with researching “the efficacy of providing mental health care through the provision of psychedelic drugs and ketamine, focusing on the provision of mental health care to veterans in this state through the use of those alternative therapies.”
The consortium would also administer a grants program to establish ketamine clinics in the state, as well as a voucher program to support veterans who wish to receive ketamine therapy.
Members appointed by the executive commissioner of health and human services would include academics focused on psychedelic therapy, representatives of health-related institutions providing alternative mental health therapies using ketamine, mental health professionals who specialize in treating veterans and representatives of psychedelics advocacy groups.
Separately, the bill would direct the commission to conduct a study on the efficacy of using substances like ibogaine and 5-MeO-DMT to treat veterans who suffer from PTSD, depression and mild traumatic brain injury—and then submit a report with its findings and any recommendations to lawmakers by December 1, 2024.
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While Texas might not be the first state that most people would think of as championing psychedelics reform, the issue has generated interest in states of widely different political backgrounds. And even some of the most conservative lawmakers have been compelled by research into the therapeutic potential of these alternative substances, particularly as it concerns military veterans who stand to benefit.
In late 2021, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) joined leading psychedelics researchers and advocates for an event focused on promoting research into the therapeutic potential of substances like psilocybin and MDMA for military veterans.
“If you would have told me five years ago that Rick Perry, knuckle-dragging, right wing Republican governor of Texas, was going to be in the same sentence with the word ‘psychedelics,’ I would have bet you the farm, baby,” the former governor said at the time.
Outside of Texas, more than a dozen states are pursuing psychedelics reform this session.
On Thursday, for example, the Oklahoma House of Representatives approved a bill to promote research into the therapeutic potential of psilocybin while providing legal protections against prosecution for people with eligible conditions who possess the psychedelic.
That same day, a Rhode Island House committee held a hearing on a bill that would remove penalties for the use and possession of psilocybin and allow the home cultivation of psychedelic mushrooms for personal use.
Earlier in the week, the Washington State Senate passed a bill to create a task force supporting research into psilocybin and develop a pathway for legal access to the psychedelic.
Hawaii’s Senate and House also passed three psychedelics research bills.
Missouri lawmakers also cleared a GOP-led bill in committee last week to facilitate research into the therapeutic potential of certain psychedelics such as psilocybin, MDMA and ketamine.
Those are just a few examples of the types of reforms that legislators across the country are considering this session.
An analysis published in an American Medical Association journal last year concluded that a majority of states will legalize psychedelics by 2037, based on statistical modeling of policy trends.
Back in Texas, a legislative panel unanimously approved a bill to decriminalize marijuana possession on Tuesday.
The full House of Representatives has already passed similar cannabis decriminalization proposals during the past two legislative sessions, in 2021 and 2019. But so far the proposals have consistently stalled in the Senate amid opposition from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R), who presides over the chamber.
On the local level in Texas, meanwhile, activists have succeeded in enacting municipal cannabis reform policies. Most recently, voters in five cities—Denton, Elgin, Harker Heights, Killeen and San Marcos passed marijuana decriminalization ballot measures in November.
Voters in San Antonio as set to decide on a similar cannabis initiative in May.
There has been some resistance to the reforms by local officials in some cities, however, and in Harker Heights, activists are working to qualify a ballot measure that would undo the City Council’s repeal of the voter-approved decriminalization initiative there.
Advocates are also keeping their eyes on San Marcos, where outgoing district attorney recently made a request that the state attorney general issue a legal opinion on a separate decriminalization initiative that local voters overwhelmingly approved.
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