North Carolina Lawmakers File Bill To Create $5 Million Psychedelic Research Grant Fund

April 20, 2023 ·

A Republican North Carolina lawmaker and a bipartisan group of cosponsors have filed a bill to create a $5 million grant program to support research into the therapeutic potential of psilocybin and MDMA and to create a Breakthrough Therapies Research Advisory Board to oversee the effort.

The legislation from Rep. Edward Goodwin (R) wouldn’t legalize the psychedelics, but it would provide funding for two competitive grants through the state Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for eligible research initiatives focused on “breakthrough therapies.”

Psilocybin and MDMA are cited as examples of such therapies that have received the special designation from the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Starting in August 2024, the department would be required to accept grant applications from in-state research entities and academic institutions that can show they’re capable of carrying out the studies, including clinical trials involving adults 21 and older.

The bill says that “the recipient must attest that the grant funds will be used to conduct research in this State on the use of one of two psychedelics, MDMA and psilocybin, and that the research will adhere to all FDA protocols and all applicable federal law.”

For studies involving MDMA, researchers would need to explore the substance’s potential in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for military veterans, first responders, frontline health professionals and people who have experienced domestic violence or sexual assault.

The psilocybin research would need to concentrate on how the psychedelic can affect anxiety and depressive disorder, while also measuring a patient’s pain levels with the treatment.

Rep. Wayne Sasser (R), who is a pharmacist and is cosponsoring the bill, explained recently that he is “in the treatment business” and that in contrast with the pills he dispenses that “you take for the rest of your life,” psychedelics can be a “cure.” for certain conditions.

“We need to follow up with this bill,” he said.

The grants are meant to fund three years of research, and recipients would need to submit a report with findings and recommendations to a Breakthrough Therapies Research Advisory Board and health department by January 15, 2028.

The board would be responsible for selecting the two grant recipients and notifying a joint legislative committee about their selection. Each recipient would receive $2.5 million.

Members of the board would need to include four people appointed by the governor; three members appointed by the House speaker; three members appointed by the Senate leader; one member of the Commission for Mental Health, Developmental
Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services; the deputy secretary of health or a designee and the director of the Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services or a designee.

Appointees would need to have backgrounds in psychedelic research, cultivation, mental health, law enforcement or be a person who is “disproportionately impacted by trauma” such as a military veteran or first responder.

This is one of the latest in a growing number of psychedelics bills that are being pursued in legislatures across the country this session.

For example, a Washington State bill to promote research into psilocybin and create a pilot program to provide therapeutic access to the psychedelic for mental health treatment is heading to the governor’s desk following final approval in the Senate.

A Nevada Senate committee approved a revised bill last week that would create a new working group to study psychedelics and develop a plan to allow regulated access for therapeutic purposes.

The Hawaii Senate approved a bill last week to create an advisory council to look into possible regulations to provide access to federal “breakthrough therapies” like psilocybin and MDMA.

Minnesota lawmakers recently attached the provisions of a bill to create a psychedelics task force that would prepare the state for possible legalization to large-scale omnibus health legislation that could reach the House floor soon.

A Republican Massachusetts lawmaker has filed three new psychedelics reform bills, including proposals to legalize substances like psilocybin and reschedule MDMA pending federal approval while setting a price cap on therapeutic access.

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.

A national poll published last month found that a majority of U.S. voters support legal access to psychedelics therapy and back federally decriminalizing substances like psilocybin and MDMA.

Back in North Carolina, the Senate passed a bill last month that would legalize medical cannabis, sending it to the House for consideration. (Full Story)

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