As Nevada advocates continue the push for psychedelics reform, a joint legislative committee held a hearing with expert and public testimony on the therapeutic potential of substances like psilocybin. Law enforcement representatives also shared their concerns around legalization—but there was notable acknowledgement that some reforms should be enacted, including possible rescheduling.
The legislature’s Joint Interim Standing Committee on the Judiciary discussed the topic on Friday, with presentations focused on the “science and impact” of psychedelic-assisted therapy. A county prosecutor and Las Vegas detective led a separate presentation on “concerns regarding the legalization of psychedelics.”
Sen. Rochelle Nguyen (D) introduced the panel, saying the purpose of the presentation was to give the committee a brief overview of “this world of psychedelics—just some historical, scientific, educational, medical and regulatory information.”
Nguyen sponsored legislation that Gov. Joe Lombardo (R) signed into law last year to create a state working group to study psychedelics and develop a plan to allow regulated access for therapeutic purposes.
That panel is still being formed, and advocates with the Nevada Coalition for Psychedelic Medicines (NCPM) met with staff for the governor’s office last month to stress the importance of filling out appointments so that members have enough time to issue a report with policy recommendations by the end of 2024 as required under the statute.
Jon Dalton, co-founder of NCPM and a former Navy SEAL, told the committee that he suffered seven traumatic brain injuries that caused post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and that traditional pharmaceuticals he was prescribed “decreased my quality of life and didn’t work.” At the recommendation of a fellow veteran, he skeptically agreed to try psilocybin treatment at a clinic in Mexico.
“The results were profound and transformational,” he said. “The manner in which they healed me involved things happening on the neurological level with adaptive neuroplasticity, as well as finding myself in an ineffable state of consciousness that allowed me to examine memories and core issues that I discovered were the root cause. Some of that was kind of bizarre, but it worked.”
Retired Lt. Diane Goldstein, executive director of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership, said at Friday’s hearing that the working group being established under Nguyen’s legislation should “consider either the decriminalization of, or reduction of penalties for, personal amounts to help remove the stigma that prevents patients from reviewing dosage and preparation protocols with their therapists and doctors.”
“Of the cities and jurisdictions that have been decriminalized these naturally occurring fungi, none have seen any significant public health or public safety issues,” she added.
Neurologist Burton Tabaac said that as the state navigates mental health treatment, “it’s crucial to consider innovative approaches that may offer relief to those in need.”
“Psychedelic assisted therapies have shown promising results in addressing mental health conditions, such as PTSD, depression, anxiety and addiction,” he said. “Our state has the opportunity to be at the forefront of this transformative movement, fostering a compassionate and forward thinking approach to mental health care.”
At a second panel at Friday’s committee meeting, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) detective Joshua Garber and Clark County Deputy District Attorney John Jones shared a law enforcement perspective on the issue. Both said they were impressed by the advocate testimony, though they cautioned against legalization beyond a medical setting.
“Perhaps science-based research and regulating spaces under the right conditions might have positive results,” Garber said. “However, at this time, LVMPD is opposed to any broader attempts to legalize or decriminalize psilocybin or other hallucinogens.
“Our concerns are for the individual and the community at whole if a person taking psychedelics outside of a medical facility experiences violent outbursts, hallucinations, states of agitation, psychosis. or loss of sense of reality,” he said. “Frankly, more work needs to be done on the front end, and legalizing psilocybin is premature.”
Jones, the county prosecutor, said he was “impressed by the presentation today, and I will acknowledge that the presentation today is similar to what I’ve been reading about the health benefits of psilocybin.”
“We have no objection to legislation which authorizes research programs and clinical studies in this state with regard to psilocybin. I agree with the proponents that the research indicates that we shouldn’t be [criminalizing] that in this state,” he said. “What we do not want to see at this point is to parlay those positive studies that were testified to today and to complete legalization of psilocybin. Generally, we think that is a step too far at this point.”
Asked about his thoughts on possibly rescheduling certain psychedelics, Jones said that while he’s not a scientist, “considering some of the research that we heard, it may be improperly classified right now as Schedule I.”
During a public comment period ahead of the presentations, several people shared personal stories about their own experiences with psychedelic medicines.
Greg Rea, a board member of NCPM and former member of the SWAT team for the Reno Police Department, talked about how his own experience with psilocybin treatment to overcome alcoholism influenced him to begin advocacy work with first responders seeking the novel therapeutic.
“These compounds provide the miracle of psychologic healing and I have seen marriages saved, relationships restored, suicides prevented and addictions healed,” he said. “We simply know too much about the safety and benefits of these substances and now have an ethical and moral obligation to allow their use in a legal and responsible manner.”
“I was a soldier in the war on drugs,” Rea said. “Now I am a soldier of healing.”
Ben Strahan, a firefighter of over two decades, shared his story of ideating suicide after combating “one of the most destructive wildfire seasons in the west.” He said “the current health system was failing me,” and so he sought out psilocybin treatment in Mexico that ultimately “alleviated my thoughts of suicide and started my healing process.”
“I stand here now in support of policy reform around psychedelic medicine, for widely accepted legalized access—especially for our first responders in need of non-addictive, profound treatment for mental health,” he said.
Meanwhile, the law Lombardo signed last June calls for the creation of a 15-member work group under the state Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), tasked with studying the science of psychedelics “including but not limited to” psilocybin and psilocin in overall wellness and the treatment of mental health conditions such as PTSD, substance use disorder and major depressive disorder, and during end of life care.
The group will further need to look at federal, state and local laws governing the therapeutic use of psychedelics and then develop an “actionable plan on how to enable access to therapeutic entheogens and compounds…that are safe, accessible, and affordable.”
The law states that the task force must carry out it work during the 2023-2024 interim period before submitting a report with findings and recommendations to the legislature by December 31, 2024.
Nevada is one of several states where lawmakers have worked to establish investigatory panels and pilot programs focused on psychedelics amid growing public interest in expanding therapeutic access and ending criminalization for substances like psilocybin, ibogaine and MDMA.
For example, a study group in Indiana’s legislature is encouraging lawmakers to authorize a psilocybin pilot program to research psychedelic-assisted therapy for mental health in the 2024 session.
The governor of Massachusetts filed a bill in November to create a psychedelics working group to study and make recommendations about the potential therapeutic benefits of substances like psilocybin and MDMA for military veterans. This comes as advocates await state verification of signatures they’ve submitted for a 2024 psychedelics legalization ballot initiative.
A New York lawmaker recently introduced a bill that would create a pilot program to provide psilocybin therapy to 10,000 people, focusing on military veterans and first responders, while the legislature also considers broader psychedelics reform.
—Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,000 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.—
Back in Nevada, while the governor’s office must still make appointments for the psychedelics work group, Lombardo did recently announce that he’s selected a new top regulator for the state’s marijuana industry.
Nevada officials have also adopted a proposal to amend hiring standards for police officers to allow job candidates who were previously disqualified for certain marijuana-related offenses to now be eligible for law enforcement positions.
On January 1, a new law took effect that makes several adjustments to marijuana rules, including doubling the state’s limit on personal possession and expanding cannabis business license eligibility for people with prior felony convictions.
Last May, the state Senate approved a resolution urging Congress to federally legalize marijuana, and the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) voted to send a proposed regulatory amendment to the governor that would formally protect athletes from being penalized over using or possessing marijuana in compliance with state law.
Regulators over the past summer also began approving the state’s first conditional licenses for marijuana consumption lounges. The state’s former top regulator said the social consumption facilities could represent “the new frontier of the legal cannabis industry” after an extensive rulemaking process that laid a robust “foundation” for the marketplace.
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