For decades, the U.S. government has barred scientists from studying psychedelics like Psilocybin and MDMA and it is illegal to use them medically or recreationally. These substances are labeled Schedule I drugs under Federal Law.

However, as more states have legalized cannabis, the push to legalize psychedelics is also increasing, due to increasing studies that show health benefits of psilocybin and MDMA, and the effectiveness of psychedelics in treating various mental conditions and eating disorders.

Researchers have found that Psychedelics can be used as medicine and therapy for various disorders.

Medical facilities like John’s Hopkins have devoted years of psychedelic research and how substances like psilocybin can help people cope with depression, PTSD, OCD, Anorexia Nervosa, and more. They have even started research studies connecting psilocybin to aiding smokers in smoking cessation.  

In November 2020, Oregon became the first state to legalize psilocybin (or “magic mushrooms”), with so-called “service centers” now able to apply for licensure. State officials predict the inaugural service centers will open in the second quarter of 2023. Colorado passed its Natural Health Medicine Act on November 8, 2022, making limited personal use of psilocybin and psilocybin legal for adults ages 21 and over.

Several other states have some form of psychedelics legislation in the works, including Arizona, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Virginia. Now it’s New York’s turn.

NY Governor Kathy Hochul signs bill to legalize MDMA and psilocybin.

Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation this week mandating that the state of New York must immediately reschedule or deschedule Schedule I drugs like MDMA and psilocybin if they’re reclassified under federal law. Sponsored by Assemblymember Donna Lupardo (D-Binghamton) and State Senator Gustavo Rivera (D-The Bronx), the companion bills introduced to the state legislature are meant to provide parity between state and federal statute changes.

What does this bill mean for Psychedelic reform in New York?

The bill amends New York state law to legalize the “possession, use, cultivation, production, creation, analysis, gifting, exchange, or sharing by or between natural persons of twenty-one years of age or older of a natural plant or fungus-based hallucinogen.”

While the law mentions many Schedule I drugs, the sponsor memo specifically focuses on psilocybin and MDMA. In the memo, we also see that NY State’s Health Commissioner will be in charge of redesignating these substances.

What other states are focusing on legalizing and researching Psychedelics?

Earlier this month Forbes featured Joshua Kappel, a founding partner of the cannabis and psychedelics law practice Vicente Sederberg LLP. He discussed the connections of this bill with Colorado’s legislation last year.

“This bill builds off the model recently passed by a large majority of the people of Colorado, which created access to certain natural psychedelic medicines that have been shown to treat a number of mental illnesses, including depression, PTSD, addiction and anxiety,” Kappel shares.

With NY lawmakers recognizing these benefits, Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal (D-Upper West Side) has focused on broadening psychedelic law reform to legalize certain entheogenic substances like psilocybin and ibogaine for adults 21 and older. Rosenthal even pushed for a bill in 2021 that would establish a Psychedelic Research Institute to focus on the therapeutic potential of these substances.

Currently, Rosenthal is the co-sponsor, with Assemblymembers Jo Anne Simon (D-Brooklyn) and Karines Reyes (D-The Bronx), of the bill A.B. 114, which proposes to legalize several plant and fungus-based hallucinogens for adult use, including psilocybin, mescaline, and DMT.

The legislation would not restrict the use of the psychedelics in service centers and provides several protections for those who engage in the lawful use of the hallucinogens. For example, employers cannot take action against employees who use psychedelics off-duty, people cannot lose their licenses or public assistance, and their use cannot be the sole basis of a child welfare investigation.

A.B. 114 is still in Assembly Committee discussions as of this writing, along with a number of other bills surrounding access to psychedelics for certain therapies and medical treatments.

The Future of Psychedelic Reform in the U.S.

Lawmakers in nearly a dozen states are working towards Psychedelic reform. “A majority of states will legalize psychedelics by 2034 to 2037” concluded an analysis published in the American Medical Association journal.

As more and more lawmakers focus on the benefits of Psychedelics like psilocybin and MDMA we may see a future with more dynamic therapy and medicines for various illnesses from Depression to PTSD.

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