A bill recently introduced in Michigan would legalize psychedelic plants and fungi so long as activities like cultivating and distributing the substances are done “without receiving money or other valuable consideration.”
Senate Bill 449, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Irwin (D), would apply to five substances—psilocybin, psilocyn, dimethyltryptamine (DMT), ibogaine and mescaline—along with the plants and fungi known to produce them. If approved, it would exempt individuals from penalties for possession and use of the substances as well as noncommercial manufacturing, processing and delivery.
Simple possession of any of the covered substances is currently a misdemeanor in the state.
Irwin, who introduced a similar bill in 2021, told Marijuana Moment in an interview Thursday that it’s urgent lawmakers revisit the proposal, noting the potential of psychedelics to treat PTSD, depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions, especially in veterans. He called the prospective policy change “just simply good public policy.”
“This is a reintroduction of an important policy that hasn’t gotten its due consideration in Michigan or most other states,” he said. “These are substances that have a long history of use by humans in medicinal, religious and cultural practices. Furthermore, these substances do not have a high propensity for abuse, nor are they physiologically very damaging.”
Irwin acknowledged there’s “a long road ahead of us in terms of passing this bill,” but he said he’s optimistic that, over time, advocates will win over hesitant lawmakers.
At the local level, several municipal governments in Michigan have moved to decriminalize psychedelics, including Detroit, Ann Arbor, Ferndale and Hazel Park. Only Massachusetts has seen more local jurisdictions pass the reform.
Last year, a group of activists failed to qualify a psychedelics legalization initiative for the ballot, saying they will refocus their efforts on the 2024 election.
Irwin said he believed the upswell in grassroots support has “absolutely” helped fuel reform efforts at the state level.
“We’ve got some really great activists here in Michigan that have started this conversation in their communities,” he said. “They’ve reached out to city council members and township board members and folks like that to ask the basic question, ‘Does it make sense that we would spend our tax resources on busting people for these crimes? Does it even make sense that possessing or using these substances is a crime in the first place?’”
“Having activists ask that question is essential and moving us forward faster here in Michigan,” the lawmaker said. “I think once that conversation gets put on the table, there’s only one right answer. Sometimes it takes some communities longer to get to the right answer, but having activists asking that question is essential.”
Asked why the measure includes only natural psychedelics and not other potentially beneficial substances such as MDMA or LSD, Irwin told Marijuana Moment it was a mistake not to include the others.
“If we get any consideration of the bill,” he said, “I’ll make sure to advocate for the inclusion of synthetic entheogens.” Irwin described the legislation as “really a vehicle for having the conversation that I think is the first step in fixing these laws.”
“Then I think we can have that next conversation,” he continued, “which is how can we learn the lessons from states like Oregon, build off the successes that they’ve had out there, and make sure that our law is a good law that allows people their freedoms but also protects consumers.”
Irwin, who noted that he supported cannabis legalization before Michigan voters approved the change in 2018, said the state stands to benefit from not being the first in line to legalize psychedelics.
“It builds off what we learned in the cannabis space,” he said. “The reason why I think Michigan has the best cannabis reform law in the country is because we learned from some of the states that went before us and were able to design a system that was more free and fair and functional.”
Earlier this month, Michigan lawmakers sent a letter to Congress, the U.S. Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) urging them to prioritize research and investment in psychedelics and other “non-technology treatment options” to address psychological trauma from military service.
The three-page resolution notes that Michigan ranks 11th out of all U.S. states and territories in terms of veteran population, with more than 550,000 living in the state as of 2021. “However,” it adds, “between 2016 and 2020, it was reported that there were 882 Michigan veterans who died by suicide.”
Irwin pointed out that his co-sponsor on the earlier 2021 psychedelics measure, then-Sen. Adam Hollier (D), is now director of the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency. “One of the reasons he signed on [to the earlier bill] is because he knows that having more options available to veterans to treat their PTSD or other mental health concerns is critically and urgently important.”
Two other states, Oregon and Colorado, have each adopted statewide laws allowing legal access to psilocybin and certain other psychedelics.
In Oregon, regulators this spring accepted the nation’s first state-licensed facilitators to administer psilocybin to adults at the regulated facilities, as well as a testing laboratory for the psychedelic. Regulators also approved the first-ever state-issued license for a psilocybin manufacturer in March.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D), meanwhile, signed a psychedelics regulation bill into law in May, setting rules for a psychedelics legalization law that voters passed last year. Regulations largely focus on use of the substances in licensed healing centers under the guidance of facilitators.
As individual states continue to push ahead with psychedelics reform the federal government has made comparatively slow progress in evaluating and approving the substances for therapeutic use.
Earlier this year, House lawmakers passed a spending bill with a number of veteran-focused marijuana and psychedelics amendments. One would allow VA doctors to issue medical cannabis recommendations to former servicemembers, and the other would encourage research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics.
President Joe Biden’s brother, Frank Biden, said in June that the president is “very open minded” about the use of psychedelics to treat addiction, though he declined to discuss details of their conversations on the topic.
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