HELENA, Mont. (April 3, 2023) – Last Wednesday, a Montana House committee held a hearing on a bill that would legalize the use of psilocybin for therapeutic purposes, setting the stage to nullify federal prohibition of the same in practice and effect.
Sen. Jill Cohenour (D) filed House Bill 955 (HB955) on March 27. The legislation would create a legal framework for the cultivation, manufacturing, possession, and distribution of psilocybin for medical use by certified patients 18 or older. Users would have to be eligible to use it for treating several conditions including:
- posttraumatic stress disorder
- an anxiety or depressive disorder; or
- a substance use disorder.
The system would be similar to medical marijuana programs.
On March 29, the House Human Services Committee held a hearing on HB955, an important first step in the legislative process.
Psilocybin, often referred to as “magic mushrooms,” is a hallucinogenic compound found in certain mushrooms. A number of studies have shown psilocybin to be effective in the treatment of depression, PTSD, chronic pain and addiction. For instance, a Johns Hopkins study found that “psilocybin produces substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer.”
Efforts to legalize psilocybin in Montana follow a successful ballot measure that decriminalized a number of drugs, including heroin and cocaine in Oregon. In 2022, Colorado voters passed a ballot measure decriminalizing several naturally occurring psychedelic substances. At least 14 cities including Detroit, Michigan have decriminalized “magic mushrooms.”
Psychedelic decriminalization and legalization efforts at the state and local levels are moving forward despite the federal government’s prohibition of psilocybin and other psychedelic substances.
Under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970, the federal government maintains the complete prohibition of psilocybin. Of course, the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to ban or regulate such substances within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.
In effect, the passage of HB955 would end criminal enforcement of laws prohibiting the possession of psilocybin in Washington. As we’ve seen with marijuana and hemp, when states and localities stop enforcing laws banning a substance, the federal government finds it virtually impossible to maintain prohibition. For instance, FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By curtailing or ending state prohibition, states sweep part of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.
Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly annual budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution either. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state and local assistance, and the same will likely hold true with other drugs.
HB955 must pass the Human Services Committee by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.
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