STATE HOUSE – Rep. Brandon Potter and Sen. Meghan Kallman are sponsoring legislation to decriminalize personal use of psilocybin, the hallucinogen found in so-called magic mushrooms. The bill would also, contingent on FDA approval, allow psilocybin to be used as a treatment for chronic mental health disorders.
“Veterans and many others in our community are struggling with chronic PTSD, depression and other mental health disorders that can be totally debilitating,” said Representative Potter (D-Dist. 16, Cranston). “We should give them the freedom to try every tool available and not criminalize a natural, effective remedy.”
Psilocybin is a naturally occurring hallucinogen that has been used by humans for thousands of years. Researchers in the United States isolated the compound in 1959 and began using it in psychotherapy. But as President Nixon’s “war on drugs” picked up steam in the 1970s, psilocybin was made illegal, preventing researchers from exploring its therapeutic value. Some scientists received permission from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to conduct research starting in the 1990s. Since then, dozens of universities and biotechnology companies have found benefits for patients with chronic mental illness.
As chronic depression, anxiety and PTSD has risen around the country, many individuals and communities have begun using psilocybin as treatment. In 2020, voters in Oregon approved the therapeutic use and decriminalization of psilocybin by referendum. Colorado voters followed suit in 2022. Several other states, including New York, New Jersey and Vermont are considering similar bills.
The bill (2023-S 0806, 2023-H 5923) would allow individuals to possess up to one ounce of psilocybin or grow mushrooms containing psilocybin at home for personal use. It would also require the Rhode Island Department of Health to promulgate rules surrounding the use of psilocybin as a treatment, contingent upon approval from the FDA.
Under current federal law, psilocybin is listed as a Schedule 1 drug, along with much more harmful, addictive substances such as fentanyl and cocaine. State law currently puts it in the same category as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamines. That, advocates say, is a complete misunderstanding of the impact of psilocybin on the body.
“Psilocybin is not addictive. It’s naturally occurring and people have been using it recreationally and medicinally for thousands of years,” said Senator Kallman (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket, Providence). “It is only illegal because, over 50 years ago, President Nixon associated it with his political opponents. It’s time to undo that mistake and give our neighbors struggling with chronic mental illness, and all Rhode Islanders, the freedom to use psilocybin responsibly.”