New Hampshire Republican Unveils Bill To Legalize Psychedelics For Mental Health And Medical Conditions

A Republican lawmaker in New Hampshire has prefiled legislation for the coming session that would legalize three psychedelic substances—psilocybin, LSD and mescaline—for therapeutic use with a healthcare provider’s recommendation.

The bill, HB 1693, from Rep. Kevin Verville, would create a regulated psychedelics system for registered patients, with alternative treatment centers (ATCs) set up to produce and dispense the substances.

The proposal is modeled after the state’s existing medical cannabis law, under which seven licensed marijuana ATCs currently serve patients. Psychedelics patients would be required to obtain state-issued ID cards, while designated caregivers could purchase and provide the substances to patients.

To access psychedelics, patients would need a recommendation from a licensed physician, advanced practice nurse, physician’s assistant, nurse practitioner or mental health provider. Anyone falsely claiming to be using psychedelics legally under the measure would be subject to a civil violation and $500 fine, in addition to other penalties.

Among the qualifying conditions envisioned for the program are anxiety, depression, PTSD, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety, body dysmorphia, eating disorders, sleep disorders, substance use disorder, chronic pain, attention deficit, migraines and cluster headaches, postpartum mental illnesses and others.

The proposal would also allow providers to recommend psychedelics for “any novel or emergent illness which is not categorized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders but is diagnosed by a state licensed mental health professional,” though there would need to be published scientific observations, including self-reports, regarding psilocybin as a treatment for the condition.

The new program would be overseen by the state Department of Health and Human Services—though the measure does not contain appropriations to fund the program’s startup or staff, a legislative description says, noting that fees for patients and ATCs would be necessary to cover those costs.

“As with the use of cannabis for therapeutic purposes program, the new program is designed to be revenue neutral,” according to the report, “with a fee structure for patients and alternative treatment centers that shall ‘generate revenues sufficient to offset all department expenses of implementing and administering this chapter.’”

HB 1693 has been referred to the House Committee on Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs, which is set to take it up when the 2024 legislative session begins next month. It’s one of several drug policy bills to be unveiled so far in advance of the new session.

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Verville introduced a similar proposal in the last legislative session, though that bill would have also specifically legalized peyote—a psychedelic cactus that contains mescaline but isn’t mentioned in the lawmaker’s new measure.

“If your finger is on the pulse of American youth and older people, psychedelics are currently in a renaissance in the United States,” Verville reportedly told the House Criminal Justice Committee in January, while speaking to his previous bill.

Aside from the psychedelics bill, New Hampshire lawmakers have already queued up several cannabis and drug policy measures ahead of the new session, including proposals to legalize cannabis for adults, annul prior convictions, expand the list of qualifying conditions for the state’s medical marijuana program as well as increase possession limits and allow home cultivation for patients and caregivers.

The legislation includes proposals from lawmakers who, according to Rep. Wendy Thomas (D), have formed a “sort of a mini therapeutic cannabis caucus” to support further reform in the state. There are currently three medical marijuana patients in the state legislature, she told Marijuana Moment earlier this month, including herself.

Thomas is the lead sponsor of two pending bills, one that would allow patients and caregivers to grow marijuana at home and keep up to eight ounces of cannabis, and another that would allow health care providers to recommend marijuana for any debilitating or terminal condition for which they believe it would benefit the patient.

So far the list of bills teed up for 2024 does not include anything along the lines of what was discussed in detail in recent months by a 19-member commission put together to recommend how to legalize marijuana through a system of state-run stores.

Members of the commission eventually revised that proposal in a way that would have created a franchise-style system of private retailers overseen by the state, but the body ultimately failed to reach consensus after a string of meandering meetings and a last-minute list of demands from Gov. Chris Sununu (R).

Sen. Rebecca Whitley (D), the lead sponsor of a prefiled bill to allow DEA-registered pharmaceutical prescribers to “prescribe” marijuana to patients—and the elected official on the state legalization commission who appeared most supportive of legalization—said in a local TV interview earlier this month that 74 percent of New Hampshire residents want to see marijuana made legal, “and so I think we have an imperative from our constituents to work towards that.”

It’s not immediately clear whether the DEA-related proposal might run into similar pushback from the federal agency encountered late last month by DEA-registered pharmacists in Georgia, who were warned that dispensing marijuana as authorized by the state Board of Pharmacy could jeopardize their DEA registrations.

Sununu, for his part, has said that legalization is “inevitable” in New Hampshire, although he’s “not a huge believer” in the idea.

The Republican governor has said he won’t seek reelection in 2024, with some suggesting he has eyes on federal office.

Supporters in other states, including Massachusetts and California, are also working to legalize psychedelics for people with a doctor’s recommendation.

Oregon and Colorado, meanwhile, have already adopted psychedelics laws. Oregon approved the nation’s first therapeutic psilocybin clinic earlier this year, while Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) signed a bill into law in May to create licensed psychedelics healing centers.

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