Indiana Senate Panel Unanimously Passes Psilocybin Research Bill With Minor Amendments

Indiana’s Senate Health and Provider Services Committee on Wednesday unanimously approved a bill that would fund clinical research trials into psilocybin, making two relatively minor amendments before advancing the legislation.

“There’s reason to believe that there is value in psilocybin and, at this point, I want to elevate the discussion,” said Sen. Ed Charbonneau (R), the bill’s sponsor and committee chair. “We need to be taking a look at something like this that is so important to our veterans with PTSD and many other issues.”

Charbonneau emphasized that the bill does not change the legal status of psilocybin under Indiana law. Instead it seeks to propel research into the substance, which the federal government has granted breakthrough-therapy status.

“I am in no way, and this bill in no way, seeks to legalize anything that isn’t legalized today,” he told colleagues. “The breakthrough therapy designation was given because there have been a number of well recognized studies that have been done already on psilocybin, and it’s mainstream research in places such as Johns Hopkins.”

Though Charbonneau initially indicated the panel wouldn’t take final action on his bill until next week, the committee ended up holding a vote during the last few minutes of Wednesday’s hearing.

“SB 139 passed unanimously and has been recommitted to the Senate Committee on Appropriations,” a press secretary for Senate Republicans confirmed to Marijuana Moment via email.

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.”

One amendment made Wednesday adjusts the definition of an eligible research institution as one with an academic institution with an institutional review board, publishes the results of clinical trials in peer-reviewed publications and “has access to a clinical research center and the center’s resources, including research dedicated medical staff.” Another is a technical fix regarding the obligations of institutions that receive grants under the proposal.

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.

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At the hearing, 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 Wikimedia/Mushroom Observer.

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