Bipartisan Washington State senators have unveiled a revised bill to legalize psilocybin services for adults.
The “Psilocybin Services Wellness and Opportunity Act” was filed by Sen. Jesse Salomon (D) on Wednesday, with 20 cosponsors. It seeks to legalize and regulate the psychedelic for adults 21 and older.
An earlier version was introduced early last year with far fewer cosponsors, and while it received a committee hearing, it did not ultimately advance toward enactment.
The Psilocybin Wellness and Opportunity Act is once again 🔔 LIVE! With🚨*20*🚨 co-sponsors! This is huge.
Can we get 1k comments in support of the bill? 📢https://t.co/6bnsJITwDc
Like and share, don’t let the Washington State gov ignore this! #waleg
— Psychedelic Medicine Alliance WA (@pma_wa) January 11, 2023
The new bill says that it’s the intent of the legislature to “facilitate the establishment of safe, legal, and affordable psilocybin service centers to provide citizens of Washington who are at least 21 years of age with opportunities for supported psilocybin experiences for wellness and personal growth.”
The purpose of the reform is to “improve the physical, mental, and social well-being of all people in this state, and to reduce the prevalence of behavioral health disorders among adults in this state by providing for supported adult use of psilocybin under the supervision of a trained and licensed psilocybin service facilitator,” it says.
Under SB 5263, the state Department of Health would be primarily responsible for licensing and regulating the new industry. A Washington Psilocybin Advisory Board would be established to advise on the issue and provide lawmakers with information about psilocybin research, best practices for supported use and criteria for the bill’s social opportunity program.
For the record, there are 49 WA State Senators, almost half of them have already cosponsored out of the gate!
— Psychedelic Medicine Alliance WA (@pma_wa) January 11, 2023
The department would need to adopt rules for a “comprehensive regulatory framework” during a two-year development period following the bill’s passage. It would need to start accepting applications to manufacture psilocybin products, operate a service center, facilitate psilocybin services or test products beginning September 2025.
As originally introduced last session, the legislation called for an 18-month regulatory development window.
Regulators could not “require a client to be diagnosed with or have any particular medical condition as a condition to being provided psilocybin services,” the legislation says.
Mason Marks, a senior fellow and project lead on the Project at Psychedelics Law and Regulation at Harvard Law School, detailed the changes in the new version in a blog post on Monday.
The legislation was revised to expand state-level protections, for example. It still safeguards most workers who participate in the legal use of psilocybin, but now it also explicitly shields health care providers who facilitate such use from being penalized.
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The bill also specifies that psilocybin facilitators will need to receive 250 hours of training before providing psychedelic services, compared to 40 hours as required under neighboring Oregon’s voter-approved psilocybin law. The legislation provides a mandatory curriculum for facilitators, and they would need to obtain a license after completing those requirements.
If regulators choose to set a limit on the maximum dose of psilocybin that adults could possess, it couldn’t be lower than five grams on a dry weight basis.
Like Colorado, where voters approved a psychedelics legalization and psilocybin services ballot initiative last year, localities could not ban psilocybin centers from operating in their jurisdiction under the Washington bill.
The legislation was also revised to expand the proposed social opportunity program, which is meant to promote participation in the industry by people from low-income communities by reducing licensing fees and providing training, for example. It now includes military veterans and indigenous people who use psychedelics ceremonially within the definition of an eligible applicant.
Additionally, the measure would codify a “client bill of rights” that provides fundamental guidance for consumers and facilitators that choose to use psilocybin.
Adults should be “treated with dignity and respect while receiving psilocybin services,” it says. They also have the right to be “free from physical, sexual, psychological, and financial abuse before, during, and after receiving psilocybin services.”
The state Department of Agriculture would also share some licensing and regulatory responsibilities, including testing psilocybin products.
Sen.Ann Rivers (R), a cosponsor of the bill who serves as ranking member of the Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee, wrote in a letter to the editor of a local newspaper that psilocybin therapy “should be more accessible.”
“In 2023, Washington legislators can follow Oregon and Colorado by enabling veterans and other adults to seek state-tested, state-certified, and state-licensed psilocybin therapy, in a controlled environment,” she said. “A state-regulated system of psilocybin facilitation centers can safely offer new treatments our veterans and neighbors desperately need.”
Separately, the legislature sent a large-scale budget bill to the governor last year that included a proposal to direct $200,000 in funding to support a new workgroup to study the possibility of legalizing psilocybin services in the state, including the idea of using current marijuana regulatory systems to track psychedelic mushrooms.
Activists tried to place a psilocybin services legalization initiative on the 2022 ballot, but they did not ultimately qualify. Another campaign also gave up an effort to have voters decide on broader drug decriminalization at the ballot.
While Washington lawmakers have shown early interest in psychedelics policy reform, it’s certainly not the only state where the issue is being addressed in the 2023 session.
So far, there are about a dozen states where psychedelics legislation is being pursued this year. In addition to Washington, there are currently reform efforts underway in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Missouri, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Virginia.
Numerous cities across the U.S. have moved forward with local reform measures to decriminalize psychedelics since Denver became the first to deprioritize enforcement of laws against psilocybin in 2019. That includes Seattle, one of the largest cities to enact the policy change.
But while the movement has been largely steered by advocates, state lawmakers across the aisle have increasingly indicated interest in the issue—and 2023 is shaping up to be an especially active year for psychedelics policy changes in legislatures across the country.
The trend over recent weeks seems to back up the findings of analysis published in an American Medical Association journal last month. That study concluded that a majority of states will legalize psychedelics by 2037, based on statistical modeling of policy trends.
At the congressional level, meanwhile, a pair of bipartisan lawmakers announced in November that they’ve formed a first-of-its-kind congressional caucus dedicated to psychedelics therapy.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) also recently released its final 2023 production quotas for drugs to be used in research—and the agency is calling for significant manufacturing of psychedelic compounds like MDMA, psilocyn and 5-MeO-DMT for study purposes.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently concluded in a report that psychedelics like MDMA and psilocybin show promise in the treatment of certain mental health conditions like PTSD and severe depression.
Meanwhile, back in Washington, lawmakers recently held House and Senate committee hearings to discuss a series of marijuana reform bills related to employment protections, interstate commerce and social equity in the cannabis industry.
Photo courtesy of Dick Culbert.