Rhode Island House Panel Weighs Bill That Would Temporarily Legalize Psilocybin

Rhode Island House Panel Weighs Bill That Would Temporarily Legalize Psilocybin

Lawmakers on Rhode Island’s House Judiciary Committee considered a bill on Thursday that would effectively legalize psilocybin mushrooms in the state, temporarily removing penalties around possession, home cultivation and sharing of psilocybin until mid-2026.

The proposal, H. 7047, from Rep. Brandon Potter (D), would not establish a commercial retail system around the psychedelic—at least until after federal reform is enacted. Until then, it would exempt up to an ounce of psilocybin from the state’s law against controlled substances provided that it “has been securely cultivated within a person’s residence for personal use” or is possessed by “one person or shared by one person to another.”

The measure is identical to a bill passed 56–11 by the House last year, though that matter did not move forward in the Senate before the end of the session.

“I don’t think it was that long ago that if you were to put a proposal like this forward, it would be thought of as very controversial,” Potter told the panel on Thursday. “But I think it’s become much more popularized and people are well aware of it, especially when you see just like the abundance and overwhelming amount of clinical research and medical science that is promoting the effects this has had on people.”

“These are not, you know, small, low-budget operations,” he added of emerging scientific research indicating the therapeutic potential of psilocybin. “These are leading medical institutions like Johns Hopkins and Yale and Stanford and so on and so forth—NYU, Columbia.”

Judiciary Committee members did not take formal action on the bill at Thursday’s hearing, instead receiving public testimony and asking several questions of Potter.

Rep. David J. Place (R) asked Potter why under the bill Rhode Island would wait for the Food and Drug Administration to take action on psilocybin before setting up state-level rules and regulations.

“Quite frankly, if it were up to me, we wouldn’t,” replied Potter. “But after a lengthy dialogue with the Department of Health, it was made clear to me that without looking for federal permission at some point, there wouldn’t be support for an eventual enactment of a controlled medical process of how this would be legally prescribed.”

“If I had carte blanche, and I was reading this bill exactly how I would like, it would be a matter of pure decriminalization,” the sponsor added. “But it was a matter of trying to balance the interest of the Department of Health with what ultimately is a drug decriminalization bill.”

Place asked Potter whether similar provisions were included around medical marijuana when state lawmakers adopted that reform. They were not.

One lawmaker, Rep. Thomas E. Noret (D), said he voted against last year’s bill and is planning to oppose the current bill, too.

“Drug-facilitated sexual assaults are on the increase, noted by the National Drug Intelligence Center,” he said, also pointing to a Brown University study “that says sexual assault and dating violence—90 percent of all campus rapes occur when alcohol is used—and/or drugs—by a victim or the assailant. So those are my objections to increasing that, and psilocybin is one of those listed on the report for the National Drug Center.”

It’s not entirely clear what national data Noret was referring to. The National Drug Intelligence Center was established as part of the Department of Justice in 1993, but it was dissolved more than a decade ago, in 2012.

Potter explained that his decriminalization-first approach is aimed at allowing people access to psilocybin without creating an environment that makes psychedelic-assisted treatment prohibitively expensive.

“Colorado and Oregon have already legalized this,” he said, “and one of the the really disheartening things that I’ve heard, especially out of Oregon, is…you have people who are paying between $5,000 and $10,000 for this treatment.”

“It becomes another doubling down of only people who are of a certain affluent level of income or privilege in that way actually have access to it,” he said. “I just personally didn’t want to double down on creating another framework for what is natural medicine to be withheld from people.”

The bill’s cosponsors include House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Robert Craven (D) and eight other lawmakers aside from Potter.

When the House passed last year’s measure, Potter called it “a positive step toward addressing mental healthcare with modern, evidence-based policy and research.”

As for this year’s bill, the lawmaker told Marijuana Moment earlier this month that he’s hopeful the measure will make it to the Senate again and receive a hearing there.

After last year’s House vote, he said, “I had a lot of people reach out to me expressing great appreciation for passing the bill and sharing their personal stories with me about their use of psilocybin and how helpful it was for them.”

“I’m hopeful that with a Senate committee hearing this year, they’ll hear some of those voices,” he added, “and understand that there’s a number of people in Rhode Island that have already benefitted from this as a treatment, and in doing so they’ve broken the law.”

Also this week, the City Council in Providence gave formal approval to a plan to open the nation’s first state-regulated safe consumption site, where people can use drugs in a supervised environment and be connected with a suite of social support and recovery services.

Meanwhile, the state’s marijuana system marked its first full year of legal sales last month, with Gov. Dan McKee (D) saying the state is “proud of the careful execution that defined our entry into this industry.” Retailers sold more than $100 million worth of cannabis products during the first year of operation.

Industry advocates have listed four main changes they’d like to see to the state’s cannabis law in the year ahead, narrowing qualifications around social equity, expanding the social equity fund with tax revenue, waiving certain fees and offering provisional business licenses.

Regulators, meanwhile, have been seeking state and federal data to better define social equity eligibility.

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Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/Mushroom Observer.

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