Psychedelic legalization in the US first took place in 2020 when Oregon voted to legalize psilocybin use. Just three years later, an influx of other states are looking into the benefits of psychedelics and working to increase access.
Psychedelic legalization efforts are spreading across the country. In the next ten years, there will be a huge increase in access to these medicines. No two states are taking the same approach. The different platforms being given to psychedelic medicines are based on the individual needs and beliefs of each state.
The Types of Psychedelic Legal Reform
Several routes can be taken for states to increase access to psychedelics. The most well-known is total decriminalization and legalization, which is what has happened in Colorado and Oregon. Both states have passed laws that allow for the therapeutic use of psychedelic medicines for people over the age of 21.
Some additional states, such as California and Massachusetts, are taking this approach to legalization. However, it is not the only path. Other states are taking a more medicalized approach to psychedelic medicine. This pathway is more popular among conservative states that have historically taken a strong stance against drug reform.
There is a wealth of new research proving the benefits of psychedelic treatment for a range of health issues. As a result, politicians who never thought they would be standing up in support of this cause are now pioneering the efforts to increase access.
Several states are working towards allocating funding to the research and development of psychedelic drugs. This route would provide access through the FDA approval of psychedelic drugs. This pathway would increase access for the whole country, not just the state putting money towards the effort. Once a drug is FDA-approved, it is available to the entire US. So, while this approach does not provide a quick route to access as the state legalization initiatives do, it may ultimately provide access to more people.
States Moving Towards Total Psychedelic Legalization
Right now, two states are following in the footsteps of Oregon and Colorado: California and Massachusetts.
California’s efforts are unique for several reasons. First of all, this is the first effort to legalize psychedelics that is being led by a state’s government. In both Oregon and Colorado, the initiatives were on the ballot for citizens to decide the outcome, and the same will likely happen in Massachusetts. On the contrary, Bill 58 in California was introduced by State Senator Scott Weiner. Bill 58 is the first psychedelic legalization law in the US that will not be voted on by citizens.
Massachusetts may be the next state to legalize psychedelics through a citizen-driven initiative. Paperwork has been filed for an initiative to increase access to psychedelics. It is supported by New Approach PAC, which also supported Prop 122 in Colorado and Measure 109 in Oregon. The goal is “creating access to natural psychedelic medicine therapy and removing criminal penalties for personal possession of these medicines.”
Several cities in Massachusetts have already decriminalized psychedelics. This new initiative would increase access state-wide by allowing the therapeutic use of psychedelics. If the initiative makes it to the ballot, it will be voted on in November 2024.
The outcome is difficult to predict at this time. However, if New Approach is backing this initiative, then there is certainly some merit behind it— and a lot of money. The lobbying group put millions of dollars into the legalization efforts in Oregon and Colorado, and they did a good job in picking which states to push their agenda in. There is no reason to think that they haven’t done the same with Massachusetts.
States Considering Funding Drug Research & Development
There are two states leading the charge to fund psychedelic research and clinical trials— California and Kentucky.
While the California legislature debates legalizing the therapeutic use of psychedelics, there is another initiative in the works. TREAT California is a citizen-driven ballot initiative that would allocate $5 billion toward getting psychedelic treatments FDA-approved and developing an entire ecosystem for psychedelic-assisted therapy. For a more comprehensive look at the legalization efforts in California, check out our full coverage here.
Second to California in the amount of money possibly going into psychedelic research is Kentucky. The state is currently considering putting $42 million of its Opioid Abatement settlement towards ibogaine research.
The committee overseeing the allocation of about $400 million of the abatement money recently had a hearing to learn more about the potential of using ibogaine to treat opioid use disorder— an issue that is currently plaguing the state.
The hearing panel consisted of five highly qualified researchers who spoke about the incredible potential of this novel treatment, and the committee was very open to receiving it. If this program is approved, the state will form a partnership with a private company to complete clinical trials and gain FDA approval for ibogaine as a therapeutic drug.
California and Kentucky have the largest programs for psychedelics in the works— financially speaking. However, there are several other states that are dipping their toes into the psychedelic pool.
Minnesota recently legalized marijuana, and psychedelics may be following close behind. The state formed a task force to help prepare the state for the legalization of compounds such as psilocybin and ibogaine.
Down south, Arizona and Texas are both looking to psilocybin to help veterans overcome PTSD. A bill in Arizona would fund psychedelic research to the tune of $30 million if passed.
A recent bill in Texas has made it easier to research psychedelics for therapeutic use. In addition, former Governor Rick Perry made an appearance at The Psychedelic Science Conference back in June.
Perry has said, “I have historically been a very anti-drug person.” However, his views have changed in reaction to seeing studies that show these medicines can help veterans heal from PTSD.
There is a lot of discussion about which pathway to psychedelic legalization is more beneficial and equitable for patients. Each way has its advantages and disadvantages. Ultimately, no pathway to legalization is necessarily better than the other.
The goal is to help as many people as possible, and both programs like Oregon’s and the FDA approval route make progress towards that goal. As these initiatives begin playing out over the next few years, it will become more apparent what works and what doesn’t.
For example, New Approach has been taking, well, new approaches with each initiative that it puts forth to test which structures work best. The development of the legal psychedelic market is messy and complicated. No state is going to get things exactly right, but every effort to get psychedelics into the hands of people suffering is a step in the right direction.