Virginia senators have approved a bill in committee to establish a statewide psilocybin advisory board and move the psychedelic to a lower schedule under state statute.
The legislation from Sen. Ghazala Hashmi (D) passed in the Senate Education and Health Subcommittee on Health Professions in a 6-1 vote on Friday morning.
This comes about a week after a separate Virginia House of Delegates panel rejected a measure to legalize psilocybin for therapeutic use for people with serious conditions who obtain a doctor’s recommendation.
Hashmi’s legislation, which now heads to the full committee for consideration, is more narrowly tailored than a proposal she filed last session to decriminalize psilocybin altogether.
Instead, it would reclassify psilocybin from Schedule I to Schedule III under state law and establish a Virginia Psilocybin Advisory Board.
Hashmi said in opening remarks on Friday that this reform would help inform future steps to provide alternative treatment options for people whose “medications are not really assisting them,” while “helping them to take care of their critical needs” with psilocybin.
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She added that there’s “increasingly compelling research” that’s being conducted in major universities across the country that is speaking to the significant medical value of psychedelics for certain conditions.
The board that’s being proposed would be required to “develop a long-term strategic plan for establishing therapeutic access to psilocybin services and monitor and study federal laws, regulations, and policies regarding psilocybin,” the bill text states.
The governor would be responsible for appointing 12 members to the board, including public health and safety officials, an addiction medicine specialist, a psychologist, a physicians specializing in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a clinical researcher, a mycologist and more.
While it wouldn’t allow legal therapeutic use of psilocybin, the bill states that the advisory board would be tasked with analyzing “scientific studies and research on the safety and efficacy of psilocybin in treating mental health conditions and on the requirements, specifications, and guidelines for providing psilocybin services in Virginia.”
Members would need to submit a report on its findings to the governor and legislature by December 1 of each year.
If enacted, the measure would amend state statute to place psilocybin in Schedule III. Possession of substances in that schedule is considered a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by a maximum one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,500.
Possession a Schedule I drug, where psilocybin is currently listed, is a Class 5 felony that carries up to 10 years in prison and up to a $2,500 fine.
Del. Dawn Adams (D), who sponsored the separate committee-defeated therapeutic psilocybin bill this session, told Marijuana Moment earlier this month that she felt the Senate advisory board legislation stood a stronger chance of passing. However, she worried that it would give legislators an excuse to delay action on more comprehensive reform for the psychedelic.
Virginia is just one of numerous states where psychedelics reform is being pursued in the 2023 session so far.
More than a dozen state legislatures have seen psychedelics proposals introduced in the first weeks of 2023 as the local decriminalization movement expands, bringing in legislators from diverse political backgrounds.
Most recently, reform measures surfaced in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Oklahoma.
A Republican Missouri lawmaker filed a bill last week that would provide therapeutic access to psilocybin for people with serious mental health conditions.
A Republican New Hampshire lawmaker also recently filed a bill to legalize the possession and use of psychedelics like psilocybin and LSD by adults 21 and older.
New York Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal (D) pre-filed legislation late last month to legalize certain psychedelics like psilocybin and ibogaine for adults 21 and older. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) also recently signed a bill mandating that the state immediately reschedule or deschedule Schedule I drugs like MDMA and psilocybin if they’re reclassified under federal law.
Bipartisan Washington State senators also recently unveiled a revised bill to legalize psilocybin services for adults.
There are also psychedelics reform efforts underway in Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey and Oregon.
Oregon voters approved a historic ballot initiative to legalize psilocybin for therapeutic use in 2020, and Colorado voters passed a broad psychedelics legalization and psilocybin services measure during the November election.
An analysis published in an American Medical Association journal last month concluded that a majority of states will legalize psychedelics by 2037, based on statistical modeling of policy trends.
Outside of the U.S., a Mexican senator announced on Wednesday that she plans to file legislation this session to legalize and regulate plant- and fungi-based psychedelics nationwide.
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