Another Indiana Senate Committee Passes Psilocybin Research Bill, Sending It To The Floor

Another Indiana Senate panel has unanimously approved a bill that would fund clinical research trials into psilocybin.

The Senate Appropriations Committee adopted a technical amendment before sending the legislation to the floor in a 14-0 vote. The action follows the psychedelics proposal being passed, also unanimously, by the Senate Health and Provider Services Committee last month.

“Psilocybin has been given breakthrough therapy by the FDA and it’s not a fringe service…anymore,” Sen. Ed Charbonneau (R), the bill’s sponsor, said ahead of Thursday’s latest vote.

“Research institutes would be able to apply for the funds to conduct studies to evaluate efficacy of psilocybin as an alternative treatment for PTSD and combat veterans and first responders with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, chronic pain and migraines,” he said. “It’s something that’s out there that is providing hope for for individuals who suffer with these issues. And right now there isn’t a lot of hope for them, and I look at psilocybin is a good thing.”

If it becomes law, the measure 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.” Any research receiving funding under the bill would need to include veterans and first responders regarding in the study sample.

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.”

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.

Before approving the legislation on Thursday, the Appropriations Committee adopted an amendment making technical changes to how money would be appropriated to the fund. The bill’s next stop is the Senate floor, after which point it would potentially head to the House of Representatives.

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At the bill’s prior committee stop, former Indiana State Health Commissioner Richard Feldman said that using psychedelics to treat behavioral disorders “may sound like a pretty crazy thing to do on first consideration. That’s what I thought when I first heard about this.”

“But recent studies have shown impressive results conducted by respected institutions, and reported in mainstream publications,” he added. “Examples include the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of Psychopharmacology and the Journal of American Medical Association. Authoring institutions include Harvard, Hopkins, and New York University among others. This is in no way fringe science.”

A state-created 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 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 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.

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Photo courtesy of Dick Culbert.

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