A Rhode Island legislative committee this week approved a bill to legalize the possession and cultivation of psilocybin mushrooms, making the state the latest of several to propose or advance legislation to ease the prohibitions on magic mushrooms and other psychedelic drugs. The measure, House Bill 5923, was approved by the House Judiciary Committee by a 12-2 vote on Tuesday, according to a report from Marijuana Moment. A companion bill is pending in the Rhode Island Senate, where the chamber’s Judiciary Committee is holding the bill for further study.
If passed, the legislation would eliminate criminal penalties for adults who possess or cultivate up to one ounce of psilocybin mushrooms for personal use. Up to one ounce of mushrooms could also be shared by one adult with another. The bill is slated to go into effect on July 1, and an amendment approved by the Judiciary Committee sets a July 1, 2025, sunset for the legislation.
The bill was introduced in March by Rhode Island state Rep. Brandon Potter and Sen. Meghan Kallman. After the bill was introduced, Kallman said the bill would benefit people living with mental health challenges.
“Veterans and many others in our community are struggling with chronic [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder], depression and other mental health disorders that can be totally debilitating,” Potter said about the legislation earlier this year. “We should give them the freedom to try every tool available and not criminalize a natural, effective remedy.”
If the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reschedules psilocybin, H 5923 directs the Rhode Island Department of Health to “establish rules and regulations pertaining to cultivation, distribution and medical prescription” of the drug for therapeutic purposes. If the FDA, which has designated psilocybin as a breakthrough therapy, expands access to the drug, the health department would be tasked with authorizing sites to administer psilocybin to “patients with a serious or life-threatening mental or behavioral health disorder, who are without access to effective mental or behavioral health medication.”
Supporters of the legislation say that psilocybin has been improperly classified for decades as a Schedule 1 drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act, a designation that is meant to indicate that a compound has no accepted medical use and a high propensity for abuse.
“Psilocybin is not addictive,” Kallman said. “It’s naturally occurring and people have been using it recreationally and medicinally for thousands of years.”
“It is only illegal because, over 50 years ago, President Nixon associated it with his political opponents,” she added. “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.”
Psilocybin And Mental Health
Studies conducted by Johns Hopkins and other researchers have shown that psilocybin has the potential to be an effective treatment for several serious mental health conditions, including PTSD, major depressive disorder, anxiety and substance misuse disorders. A study published in 2020 in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Psychiatry found that psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy was a quick-acting and effective treatment for a group of 24 participants with major depressive disorder. Separate research published in 2016 determined that psilocybin treatment produced substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer.
Federal agencies including the Food and Drug Administration are currently reviewing the potential for psychedelics to treat serious mental health conditions. In June, the head of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration wrote to U.S. Representative Madeleine Dean, a Pennsylvania Democrat, that FDA approval of psilocybin to treat depression was likely within the next two years.
As the nation faces rising rates of substance use and mental health issues “we must explore the potential of psychedelic-assisted therapies to address this crisis,” Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, assistant secretary for mental health and substance use, wrote to Dean.
The ongoing research has prompted several states to consider legislation to ease the prohibition on psilocybin and other psychedelic drugs, particularly for therapeutic purposes. Last month, Oregon officials issued the state’s first license for a psychedelic therapy treatment center following the legalization of magic mushrooms for therapeutic use with the passage of a 2020 ballot measure. A similar initiative was approved by Colorado voters in 2022. And in February, an Arizona legislative panel approved a psilocybin therapy research bill, only a month after a psilocybin therapy legalization bill was introduced in Missouri.