Lawmakers in Arizona have reached a unanimous decision to approve the bipartisan bill, HB 2486, which will fund the research of psychedelic mushrooms and their potential to treat various conditions, such as treatment-resistant depression and PTSD.
State representatives introduced the bill in January, and on February 14, 2023, the House Military Affairs and Public Safety Committee passed the bill in a 15-0 vote. With House Panel approval, the bill can get to work by gradually giving out $30 million in grants to research magic mushrooms and their effectiveness in treating certain medical issues.
Arizona-based researcher Sue Sisley told Marijuana Moment, “Arizona is poised to be the 1st state to sponsor controlled trials of whole natural mushrooms!” Sisley argues for expanding research: “We want to understand the risks/benefits of whole complex mushrooms—the stuff actually being consumed daily by patients around the globe.”
Although this bill does not legalize shrooms in Arizona, it is a great breakthrough toward a nationwide effort to understand the science behind psilocybin rather than focusing on criminalization efforts. As more solid evidence comes forth about the benefits of psilocybin, the attitudes regarding the substance may continue to change and potentially lead to further legislative shifts. HB 2486 is a positive step in acknowledging that criminalizing psilocybin has not been effective in preventing its use.
Furthermore, the additional research will help both scientists and the general public develop a deeper understanding and more progressive approach towards psychedelic mushrooms. The passing of this bill is a promising victory in the direction of a more evidence-based approach that focuses on the health and well-being of the public rather than drug criminalization.
The article below was published on January 30, 2023.
2023 appears to be the year for psilocybin. Several states have been attempting to pass legislative acts to make the psychedelic compound more accessible to those wanting to use it as a treatment for mental health conditions. Though evidence has been trickling in about the effectiveness of psilocybin treatment, there is not enough conclusive scientific evidence to federally legalize the substance for its medicinal features. Many of us are wondering: could magic mushrooms be used as medicine? Clinical research funded by Arizona’s House Bill 2486 may help answer that question.
Earlier in January, Representative Kevin Payne introduced HB 2486 with support from Representatives Jennifer Longdon, Stacy Travers, and Senator T.J. Shope. The House bill, supported by both republicans and democrats, aims to provide scientists with a research grant of over $30 million. For three years, the money will fund clinical trials that can be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as an evaluation of whole-mushroom psilocybin for treating thirteen different medical conditions.
The Arizona Department of Health and Human Services (DMS) is responsible for approving the bill and overseeing the program. An essential part of that role is appointing a Psilocybin Research Advisory Council that includes a military veteran, a member of law enforcement, a licensed psychedelic physician, and an Arizona University professor/researcher specializing in clinical research or psychedelic studies. The advisory council establishes clinical trial criteria and oversees the application process for clinical trial research grants. All advisory council meetings must be open to the public and available for public testimony.
HB 2486 is an amendment to Arizona’s Public Health and Safety Title 36, which adds a new article that allows for the grant-funded research of psychedelic mushrooms. Psilocybin remains illegal in Arizona and is considered to be a “dangerous drug.” Those caught possessing the substance can face criminal charges as a class 4 felony. However, Arizona state legislators seem to recognize psilocybin as a potential medicine after overwhelming support from top scientists in psilocybin research.
Sue Sisley, a researcher from a nonprofit drug development program called the Scottsdale Research Institute, spoke to Arizona Mirror about the medical potential of psilocybin.
“It’s curbed their suicidality, it’s put their PTSD into remission, it’s even mitigated their pain syndromes,” Sisely said. “It’s shown evidence of promoting neurogenesis (the growth and development of nerve tissue.) There’s all kinds of great things that are being uncovered, but they’re not in controlled trials — they’re anecdotes from veterans and other trauma sufferers.”
The research will prioritize veterans, first responders, frontline healthcare workers, and individuals from underserved communities as trial subjects for expedited access to the early stages of psilocybin treatment. With more research on the hallucinogenic compound, mental health services can designate psilocybin therapy as an option for various treatment-resistant conditions.
In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) designated psilocybin as a breakthrough therapy for the treatment of depression. A drug is considered a breakthrough treatment if it provides significant clinical benefits for those suffering from life-threatening conditions compared to other medications on the market. Despite this, psilocybin remains a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, making it federally illegal. Psilocybin’s drug classification limits the clinical studies that can be conducted on its medicinal validity.
However, a recently published journal analyzed several clinical trials to find evidence of effective psilocybin therapy. According to the journal’s authors, psilocybin “showed statistically significant benefits while also having fewer negative side effects than standard drugs” (1). Additionally, another study has found that synthetic psilocybin can yield positive results as a potential medicine for treatment-resistant depression (2). Despite these positive findings, more research is needed to solidify psilocybin as an accepted treatment for medical conditions. It’s worth noting that much psilocybin research has been done on a lab-made, isolated psilocybin compound rather than on the entire mushroom. As a result, the mushrooms themselves are not scientifically considered medicine.
Unfortunately, much evidence supporting psilocybin mushroom use as a treatment for mental health conditions is currently anecdotal. Ethnomycologist researchers have found that indigenous communities have used psilocybin-containing mushrooms for centuries as spiritual and physical medicine. Much of this knowledge has been lost through colonization and legal efforts, though many indigenous cultures continue using psilocybin for ceremonial and religious purposes. Healers from these communities tend to be generous with their knowledge despite psilocybin’s stigmatized and illegal state. Even though these findings aren’t representative of the westernized scientific community, they remain a solid basis for our current understanding of psychedelic mushrooms.
Although not necessarily representative of the scientific community, these findings are promising and suggest more research is needed to understand the potential therapeutic benefits of psilocybin thoroughly. As we know more about psilocybin’s therapeutic potential, it is more likely for the naturally occurring medicine to be legally accessible.
Back in 2020, Oregon was the first state to legalize psilocybin for medical use in a historic ballot initiative to regulate psilocybin services. Since then, several states across the U.S. have been creating legislation supporting psychedelic medicine. If HB 2486 passes, the Arizona bill may help pave the way for psilocybin’s scientific classification as a medicine. As a result, the naturally occurring substance can be more acceptable in the eyes of federal law and more accessible to those who use it for medical or spiritual purposes.
1.) Ziff, Shawn, Benjamin Stern, Gregory Lewis, Maliha Majeed, and Vasavi Rakesh Gorantla. 2022. “Analysis of Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy in Medicine: A Narrative Review.” Cureus 14 (2). https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.21944.
2.) Goodwin, Guy M., Scott T. Aaronson, Oscar Alvarez, Peter C. Arden, Annie Baker, James C. Bennett, Catherine Bird, et al. 2022. “Single-Dose Psilocybin for a Treatment-Resistant Episode of Major Depression.” New England Journal of Medicine 387 (18): 1637–48. https://doi.org/10.1056/nejmoa2206443.