Missouri Lawmakers Hold Hearing On Therapeutic Psilocybin Legalization Bill

A Missouri House committee considered a proposal on Tuesday that would legalize the medical use of psilocybin in the state and mandate clinical trials exploring the therapeutic potential of the psychedelic. A separate Senate committee hearing on similar legislation that was scheduled to take place was canceled, however.

Rep. Aaron McMullen (R) and Sen. Holly Thompson Rehder (R) introduced similar versions of the legislation last month. Under both measures, adults 21 or older diagnosed with a qualifying condition such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or substance use disorders could legally access laboratory-tested psilocybin. They also would need to be enrolled, or have sought enrollment, in a state Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) clinical trial involving the psychedelic.

McMullen, sponsor of HB 1830, told members of the House Veterans Committee that he never expected to be leading psychedelics reform efforts.

“If someone said that I would be presenting…on a psilocybin bill to treat depression, I would have said, ‘You’re absolutely out of your mind,’” he said. “But the studies have shown that this is the most promising avenue to help treat and tackle these problems” that many people, especially veterans, are experiencing.

Under the proposal as introduced, psilocybin could be administered over a maximum of only one year. The amount used in that period would be limited to 150 milligrams, though qualifying patients could apply for subsequent one-year approvals. Patients would need to provide DHSS with details about their diagnoses, who would be administering psilocybin and other details on the time and place of treatment sessions.

The legislation also calls for DHSS to provide $2 million in grants to support “research on the use and efficacy of psilocybin.”

Under state law, regulators, physicians and state agency officials would be protected from legal consequences related to activity legalized through the change.

Brad Bailey, a retired Navy SEAL, testified on Tuesday that veterans who stand to benefit from psychedelic therapy are now being forced to travel to Mexico and other countries to access the treatments. “It’s really hard to convince somebody” suffering from severe mental health issues “to go to a foreign country and get treatment that they should be able to get here in the United States,” he said.

Anne Bethune, who currently provides ketamine-assisted therapy, told lawmakers that legalizing psilocybin treatments “will improve the quality of life for a lot of people in Missouri and in surrounding states.”

Elaine Brewer of the Grunt Style Foundation said her experience as a military spouse and seeing her husband’s struggles after returning home from war has driven her advocacy for psychedelic access.

“I am incredibly optimistic about what psychedelic therapy can do for Missouri veterans struggling year after year with suicidal thoughts, post-traumatic stress, depression and anxiety,” she said. “Current research indicates that psychedelic substances can foster relaxation, improve well-being, enhance social connectivity, promote introspection and produce profound healing experiences.”

On the Senate side, the body’s Emerging Issues Committee was set to hear the psilocybin legislation as well as two unrelated bills on Tuesday, but that meeting was canceled—along with a number of other Senate committee hearings.

As introduced, SB 786 takes its lead from a separate House bill that advanced to the floor of that chamber last year but was not ultimately enacted.

Eapen Thampy, a lobbyist for American Shaman and organizer of Psychedelic Missouri, told Marijuana Moment last month that he expects the Senate measure “will be further refined through the committee process.”

Advocates in the state are calling on supporters to ask their legislators to pass the bills.

Psychedelic Missouri said in an email to supporters that enacting the reforms is important because despite the Food and Drug Administration designating psilocybin a breakthrough therapy in 2018, “six year later psilocybin has still not been approved for use.”

It added that the regulated program “can provide the framework for other psychedelic therapies” that are further away from federal approval, “including LSD, ayahuasca, or ibogaine.”

The email said that while advocacy has made an impact in recent years, political realities in the Senate could still limit the proposal’s chances.

“This is the 4th year we have worked to advance psychedelic therapy access in Missouri and I’m proud to say I think we have won the argument—however, this year, divisions in the Missouri Senate have put passage of any legislation in jeopardy,” it said. “We’re hoping that lawmakers see the urgency of passing House Bill 1830 & Senate Bill 768.”

Missouri has stood out as a key battleground for the psychedelics reform movement, with multiple GOP legislators championing proposals to open access and promote research into the therapeutic potential of plant-based medicines in recent years.

Advocates have also been organizing conferences and other events—including a veterans-focused psychedelics panel that took place in October—to build on the momentum and raise awareness about the alternative therapies.

Meanwhile the state’s marijuana market continues to mature, with combined 2023 medical and recreational cannabis sales surpassing $1.3 billion. In December, recreational cannabis purchases totaled $106.5 million, shattering the state’s previous $98.7 million record set in July.

Since cannabis sales to adults 21 and older began in February of last year, Missouri has recorded nearly $1.04 billion in total adult-use sales. Medical marijuana sales, meanwhile, slowed over the course of the year.

Officials recently announced that $17 million of the cannabis tax revenue the state has generated will be used to fund veterans health, drug treatment and legal aid.

The state has also expunged more than 100,000 cannabis offenses during the first year of legalization, though some courts have missed deadlines as they struggle to review decades of old cases. Courts earlier this month asked for $3.7 million to continue the process.

Ahead of the new year’s legislative session, a Democratic lawmaker pre-filed a bill that would prevent police from using the smell of marijuana as the sole basis of a warrantless vehicle or property search. The one-page measure says that “the odor of marijuana alone shall not provide a law enforcement officer with probable cause to conduct a warrantless search of a motor vehicle, home, or other private property.”

Another proposal, introduced by a pair of Republicans, is attempting to enshrine in state law a policy that cuts workers’ compensation awards in half for on-the-job injuries if the employee tests positive for marijuana use—regardless of whether that worker was responsible for the incident.

Missouri’s marijuana system also experienced considerable turbulence last year, with tens of thousands of products recalled over the allegedly illegal use of hemp-derived cannabinoids from outside the state. In November, regulators moved to revoke the business license of Delta Extraction, the company at the center of the controversy—a move that could lead to a showdown in court.

The recall incident put state marijuana regulators on their heels regarding practices at product testing labs, which had already come under fire earlier in the year over alleged practices of “lab shopping” as producers sought higher THC potency numbers.

A proposal from a Republican state senator would regulate intoxicating hemp products like marijuana.

An annual report by the Division of Cannabis Regulation recently found that more than 40 percent of the owners listed on applications for state’s social equity marijuana licenses issued in October were from outside Missouri.

“It doesn’t matter how you applied—whether you’re part of a group of multiple applications or a single application,” said Abigail Vivas, who oversees the state’s microbusiness program. “We are going to look at all the information to ensure that these are going to truly eligible individuals.”

Lawmakers also said last year that the state’s marijuana regulators overstepped their authority when setting new rules on product branding and packaging meant to limit appeal to children.

In October, businesses also filed a lawsuit challenging the “stacked” local and county taxes that companies say is unconstitutional.

In November, retailer Point Management, which does business as Shangri-La in Columbia, settled a dispute with a union over 15 charges of unfair labor practices.

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Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/Workman.

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