Several states across the U.S. are forging ahead with their respective psilocybin reform programs, largely embracing policy changes around possession and cultivation while working to implement therapeutic practices involving the “magic mushroom” compound.
And kicking off the new year, more states are looking to join those ranks. Most recently, Rhode Island Rep. Brandon Potter (D) introduced his proposal — described in his own words as a decriminalization model — with a number of details standing apart from reform measures that have already been enacted.
Rhode Island’s Newest Bid for Psilocybin Reform
The bill, H 7047, would remove penalties around possession, home cultivation and sharing of one ounce or less of psilocybin. The bill specifically notes exemptions for psilocybin, so long as it is “in possession of one person or shared by one person to another” and that psilocybin “has been secretly cultivated within a person’s residence for personal use.” The bill would not work to establish a psilocybin retail system, though that could shift along with broader policy.
The bill also leaves room for potential evolution in federal law, namely if psilocybin ends up being rescheduled on the Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The compound is currently classified as a Schedule I controlled substance.
The measure suggests that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), referred to incorrectly in some of the bill’s language as the “Federal Drug Administration,” would be the authority responsible for rescheduling psilocybin, though this is typically a job of the DEA. The FDA, however, has the ability to approve specific pharmaceutical drugs.
The bill notes that provisions could shift, should federal access to psilocybin expand to include “patients with a serious or life-threatening mental or behavioral health disorder, who are without access to effective mental or behavioral health medication.” In that case, the bill references that psilocybin could be available in the state in locations approved by the Rhode Island Department of Health.
Another notable distinction is the temporary nature of the bill, which would take effect on July 1, 2024 and sunset on July 1, 2026.
Prior to this date, the attorney general would need to provide a report to the speaker of the house and the president of the Senate, providing data on the number of violations issued for psilocybin possession, cultivation and distribution. The director of the Department of Health would also be required to provide a report to the same parties surrounding the scheduling of psilocybin and “permitted use for the treatment of mental or behavioral health disorders.”
While the bill has a number of specific differences from many that have already been enacted, this is by design according to Potter. In an interview with Marijuana Moment, he said that the bill is meant to provide more flexible accessibility for those who may benefit from the effects of psilocybin.
Increasing Access to Psychedelic Medicine
Potter said that legalizing noncommercial growing and sharing of psilocybin would allow for greater access of those in need, adding, “the last thing I wanted to do was create a legalization model that would make it highly regulated and restrict access to people who actually need it.”
While other states have similarly prohibited penalties surrounding possession and cultivation of psilocybin mushrooms, therapeutic access — or working specifically with mental health professionals through guided psilocybin counseling — largely presents an accessibility issue for many citizens.
In Oregon for example, there were an estimated 3,000 people on a waitlist for the state’s first legal and operating psilocybin center as of September 2023. These experiences can also exceed more than $2,000, as reported by AP News, and while patients don’t need a prescription or referral, their insurance will not cover those expenses.
Potter referenced that the price of psilocybin services can be even higher, reaching up to $10,000. He also nodded to the shortage of behavioral healthcare providers in Rhode Island who are already “so squeezed by the private insurance system” that they only take patients paying out of pocket, adding that he does not want to “exacerbate that issue.”
Potter also noted that he does not want the initiative to be driven by money, specifying that the bill is about creating additional options for those in need, “not creating a new industry for the state at the expense of people’s care.”
According to the representative, decriminalization is the primary aim, though he also wanted to eventually allow doctors in the state to recommend psilocybin to patients.
A similar bill, H 5923, was passed in the Rhode Island House of Representatives last year, though it did not progress to the Senate. Potter said he’s hopeful this measure will make it to the Senate, receive a hearing and that the committee will “understand that there’s a number of people in Rhode Island that have already benefited from this as a treatment, and in doing so they’ve broken the law.” (Full Story)