As marijuana reform continues to stagnate in the Wisconsin legislature, bipartisan and bicameral lawmakers have come together to introduce a new bill that would create a psilocybin research pilot program in the state.
Sens. Jesse James (R) and Dianne Hesselbein (D), as well as Reps. Nate Gustafson (R) and Clinton Anderson (D), are sponsoring the legislation, which would focus on exploring the therapeutic potential of the psychedelic in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among veterans.
The pilot program would be facilitated through the University of Wisconsin at Madison, which already operates a multidisciplinary psychedelics research division that launched in 2021.
Veterans who are 21 and older with diagnosed treatment-resistant PTSD would be eligible to participate in the program. Psilocybin would need to be provided through existing pathways under the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has designated the psychedelic as a “breakthrough therapy.”
“Wisconsinites, especially our veterans struggling with treatment-resistant PTSD, deserve the ‘Right to Try’ the best possible care and support,” Gustafson said in a statement. “I am proud to work across the aisle to propose a bipartisan bill to create a medicinal psilocybin treatment pilot to fulfill our moral duty to our veterans, who have selflessly served our country.”
The bill would create a medicinal psilocybin treatment fund to support the research, with an initial infusion of $100,000 in appropriations. Charitable gifts and donations could also be accepted by the university to expand the fund.
The university’s board of regents would need to submit findings to the governor and legislators within six months of the study’s completion.
“The mental health of our veterans is incredibly important. Increasing treatment opportunities for veterans with PTSD is something we should all agree on,” Anderson said in a press release. “I’m proud of this bipartisan bill to support those who served our country.”
Sponsors circulated a cosponsorship memo on Thursday to bolster support, writing to colleagues that psilocybin “has shown immense promise in providing relief to those suffering from various mental health conditions, including PTSD.”
Studies such as one conducted at NYU have documented significant improvements in the quality of life for PTSD patients treated with psilocybin,” they said. “Patients reported increased engagement in external activities, higher energy levels, improved family relationships, and enhanced work performance. These findings underline the potential benefits of psilocybin therapy in addressing the mental health needs of our veterans.”
“By co-sponsoring this bill, you are not only championing the well-being of our nation’s veterans but also contributing to the generation of essential data that will inform our future policies regarding psilocybin,” the memo says, requesting responses from lawmakers interested in joining as cosponsors by November 17.
While psychedelics policy has emerged as an issue of bipartisan interest in an ideologically mixed number of states across the country in recent years, this represents one of the first legislative pushes in Wisconsin—and there are some questions about its prospects in the GOP-controlled legislature where even modest medical marijuana legislation has consistently stalled.
Wisconsin Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Melissa Agard (D), have been pushing for cannabis legalization as a growing number of neighboring states (most recently Ohio) have moved to enact the reform. But Republican leadership has only floated the idea of advancing limited medical cannabis legislation so far.
That’s in spite of economic findings that legalization could generate hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue for Wisconsin.
It’s possible, of course, the psychedelics finds a more accepting home in Madison. Psilocybin research legislation has advanced in conservative states like Texas and Oklahoma as lawmakers across the aisle have been compelled by research into the therapeutic potential of substances such as psilocybin for mental health treatment.
For now, however, the psilocybin research bill is in its early phase, with sponsors working to build a broader coalition of initial supporters before the bill is referred to committee. (Full Story)