Arizona House Panel Approves Psilocybin Research Bill

A legislative panel in Arizona last week voted to advance a bipartisan bill that would support research into the potential medical benefits of psilocybin, the primary psychoactive compound in “magic mushrooms.” The measure, House Bill 2486, was approved by the House Military Affairs and Public Safety Committee with a unanimous vote on February 14. The bill was introduced last month by state Rep. Kevin Payne with the support of fellow Republican Sen. T.J. Shope in the state Senate and co-sponsorship in the Arizona House of Representatives by Democratic Reps. Jennifer Longdon and Stacey Travers.

If passed by the full legislature and signed by Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs, the bill would provide $30 million in grants to study psilocybin’s effects on more than a dozen medical conditions including depression, substance misuse disorders, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and symptoms of long Covid-19. The research, including phase I, II and III clinical trials of whole mushroom psilocybin, would focus on “using veterans, first responders, frontline health care workers and persons from underserved communities as the research subjects,” according to the text of the measure.

Unlike the psychedelics legislation under consideration in several other states that would decriminalize or legalize some psychedelic drugs, the Arizona bill does not change the legal status of psilocybin. But Sue Sisley, a cannabis and psychedelics researcher at the Arizona-based Scottsdale Research Institute, said that the proposal is still a significant step forward in the movement to reform the nation’s policy surrounding psilocybin and other psychedelics.

“The public may not realize that early FDA-approved studies showing psilocybin looks promising as a medicine are only looking at synthetic psilocybin molecule,” Sisely told Marijuana Moment on February 16. “That’s not a real world evaluation.”

“We want to understand the risks/benefits of whole complex mushrooms—the stuff actually being consumed daily by patients around the globe,” she added. “Arizona is poised to be the first state to sponsor controlled trials of whole natural mushrooms!”

Psilocybin And Mental Health

Clinical research and other studies into psychedelics such as psilocybin have shown that the drugs have potential therapeutic benefits, particularly for serious mental health conditions such as depression, addiction and anxiety. Research published in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Psychiatry in 2020 found that psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy was an effective and quick-acting treatment for a group of 24 participants with major depressive disorder. A separate study published in 2016 determined that psilocybin treatment produced substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer.

Sisely, who is also a physician specializing in internal medicine, said that she has seen patients challenged by trauma and substance misuse disorders have seen “tremendous benefits” from using psilocybin therapeutically.

“It’s curbed their suicidality, it’s put their PTSD into remission, it’s even mitigated their pain syndromes,” Sisely told the Arizona Mirror. “It’s shown evidence of promoting neurogenesis (the growth and development of nerve tissue.) There’s all kinds of great things that are being uncovered, but they’re not in controlled trials — they’re anecdotes from veterans and other trauma sufferers.”

The committee’s approval of the psilocybin research bill in traditionally conservative Arizona underscores the growing popularity and bipartisan support of psychedelics policy reform measures. Already in 2023, lawmakers in more than a dozen states have introduced measures designed to rethink regulations for psilocybin and other psychedelics, including New York, Missouri and New Hampshire.

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