A new bill in Indiana would create a psilocybin research fund aimed at providing money to research institutions studying the psychedelic as an alternative treatment for mental health and medical disorders, from PTSD to migraines.
The proposal, SB 139, was introduced this week by Sen. Ed Charbonneau (R) and already has a hearing scheduled before the Senate Health and Provider Services Committee on Wednesday.
If passed, the measure would not amend Indiana’s criminal laws around psilocybin but would instead help pay for clinical trials into the drug’s efficacy, especially among military veterans and first responders.
The legislation would create a therapeutic psilocybin research fund “for the purpose of providing financial assistance to research institutions in Indiana to study…the use of psilocybin to treat mental health and other medical conditions.”
Researchers would need to apply to the state Department of Health to receive funds to study the substance as a treatment for conditions, six of which are specified in the bill: PTSD “with a focus on treating the disorder in combat veterans and first responders,” anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, chronic pain and migraines.
The studies would need to “compare the efficacy of psilocybin as a treatment for mental health and other medical conditions…with the efficacy of other current treatment options.”
Any research receiving funding under the bill would need to include veterans and first responders regarding in the study sample. Participants would need to undergo a mental health evaluation before joining a funded study.
The bill would become effective immediately upon passage, as it was filed as an emergency measure. Officials would need to establish a process to administer the fund and process applications by July 1.
Despite creating the fund, the proposal does not immediately allocate any money to it. It says the fund would consist of donations, gifts and appropriations from the state legislature.
After completing any research, institutions receiving funding would need to file a report “summarizing the results of the study and any recommendations for legislation” to the state, including the Department of Health, the Division of Mental Health and Addiction and an interim study committee assigned last year to study a variety of health issues.
The study committee recently recommended that lawmakers authorize a psilocybin pilot program to research psychedelic-assisted therapy for mental health during this year’s legislative session, advising that “the Indiana General Assembly take an approach that strikes a balance between access, research, and prudence.”
While psilocybin is still classified as a Schedule I controlled substance at the federal level, the body said, the “prevailing view is that psilocybin should not be a Schedule I drug and has proven medical benefits.”
Charbonneau, who chairs the committee, said late last year that he was already in touch with people at Indiana University Health and Purdue University about psychedelic research.
“I have had discussions with both IU Health and with Purdue University,” he said. “I spoke to 150 pharmacy students at Purdue, and afterward had a chance to speak with the dean of the pharmacy program…and he texted Dr. Jerome Adams, who’s now at Purdue University.”
Adams, a former U.S. surgeon general under then-President Donald Trump, joined Purdue in October 2021. While he’s said little publicly about psychedelic-assisted therapy, he’s previously claimed that “there’s no such thing as medical marijuana.”
Indiana lawmakers have been considering marijuana legalization but so far have yet to take concrete steps toward the reform in the GOP-controlled legislature. Another interim study group heard testimony around the possibility of decriminalizing simple cannabis possession in November, but the group did not make any specific recommendations.
In an op-ed for Marijuana Moment, Rep. Blake Johnson (D) wrote recently that Indiana is “falling far behind” on marijuana as its neighboring states legalize. “I implore my fellow legislators to listen to the statistics. It’s time for Indiana to sow the seeds and reap the economic benefits of cannabis,” he wrote.
One supportive lawmaker—Rep. Justin Moed (D)—managed to force a vote on marijuana legalization in the House last year, but Republicans rejected the proposal.
—Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 900 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.—
As for psychedelics, Oregon and Colorado have already passed laws at the state level allowing therapeutic use of psilocybin, and other states are considering similar reforms. In California, for example, a Democratic senator has said he’ll be filing a revised psychedelics bill this year alongside an Assembly Republican that will focus on providing regulated therapeutic access to certain psychedelics, claiming the state is at an “inflection point” on the issue.
In Massachusetts, Gov. Maura Healy (D) recently filed a bill to create a psychedelics working group to study and make recommendations about the potential therapeutic benefits of substances like psilocybin and MDMA for military veterans. Campaign organizers in the state recently said they believe they’ve collected enough valid signatures to force lawmakers to consider a psychedelics legalization initiative—the first option for the reform before activists move to put it on the state’s 2024 ballot.
Bipartisan lawmakers in Wisconsin, meanwhile, have introduced a new bill to create a psilocybin research pilot program in the state.
In May of last year, Washington State’s governor signed a bill into law to establish a pilot program at the University of Washington to provide access to the psychedelic for military veterans and first responders in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and mood and substance use disorders.
A bill introduced recently for Washington’s new legislative session would go further, legalizing limited psilocybin therapy for veterans and first responders.
A Rhode Island lawmaker also introduced a new measure to temporarily end penalties against psilocybin use, possession, cultivation and sharing, with further state-level changes tied to federal reform.
At the federal level, lawmakers late last year held the first-ever congressional hearing on psychedelics, with testimony focusing on how substances like psilocybin and MDMA can aid therapy for military veterans’ facing mental health challenges.
In a recent Harvard University-hosted panel featuring former Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials, speakers broadly agreed that psychedelic substances like MDMA and psilocybin hold powerful potential to help treat PTSD and curb suicide rates in service members, but they cautioned against hasty, unsupervised use of psychedelics given the possibility for further harms.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) also announced recently that it’s seeking proposals to develop psychedelics into treatments for substance use disorder (SUD), with plans to issue $2 million in grant money toward the research projects during fiscal year 2025.
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