The psychedelic revolution appears to be upon us as several states throughout the U.S. have been pushing for the legalization – or at least decriminalization – of certain hallucinogenic substances. Oregon and Colorado have already legalized facilitated psilocybin-assisted therapy, while other states like California and New Hampshire are working towards the same motive in legislative bills recently introduced this year. Despite a historically harsh stance on drugs, Missouri appears to be following suit with a new house bill that aims to increase psychedelic accessibility by legalizing psilocybin to eligible patients.
On January 18, 2023, Representative Tony Lovasco introduced a bill to legalize psilocybin therapy in Missouri while decriminalizing psychedelic usage for individuals over the age of 21. HB 869 is an act to repeal sections of a current Missouri law that penalizes possession or use of a controlled substance as a class D felony.
Under the House bill, natural medicine (psilocybin or psilocin) does not count toward the list of controlled substances deemed illegal. Instead, these substances would become decriminalized so that anyone caught possessing them would face less harsh criminal charges, such as fines and misdemeanor tickets. Additionally, psilocybin-assisted therapy would become legalized for Missouri’s eligible patients. The bill text defines an eligible patient as:
“a person twenty-one years of age or older who has been diagnosed by a physician with a qualifying serious medical condition within the past twenty-four months and who has written documentation from the physician certifying the diagnosis.”
During the last legislative session, the Missouri lawmaker proposed a similar psychedelic legalization bill that aimed to legalize medical treatment with the inclusion of other natural substances like DMT, mescaline, and ibogaine. Ultimately, Lovasco’s bill was not approved by the general court. The revised version may succeed more than the first time Lovasco released the bill because psilocybin has more scientific evidence to back up its medicinal claims. Removing less studied substances gives the bill a higher chance for approval.
This bill’s enactment would not be a complete victory in psychedelic legislation, though it is a big leap for a state known for its harsh drug laws. A report from Marijuana Moment reveals,
“The bill, HB 869, doesn’t seek to amend state drug statute by legalizing psilocybin; rather, it provides affirmative defenses against criminal prosecution for patients who possess up to four grams of the psychedelic, as well as doctors, caregivers, and professionals who provide psilocybin services.”
Those with serious health conditions not listed under the bill may petition to add their illnesses to the list to be approved for psilocybin therapy.
Several studies have supported claims of psilocybin being a natural treatment for those with mental health conditions such as addiction, PTSD, anxiety, and depression (1). As a result, the FDA has classified the substance as a breakthrough drug for treatment-resistant major depressive disorder. A drug is designated as a breakthrough therapy if studies find it is more effective than any other treatment for the condition. Once a drug obtains this classification, it receives accelerated research to get it approved and available to those needing it.
Now that psilocybin is again facing intensive scientific research, many state governments and law enforcement agencies are opening their minds to allowing patients to use the psychedelic substance as a treatment for their medical issues.
Though many other psychedelics have clinical potential as a treatment, psilocybin is one of the most widely accepted because of its natural occurrence and decades of research. Despite the Controlled Substance Act of 1970, which criminalized psilocybin as a Schedule I drug, the substance continues to make headlines for its effectiveness as a therapy for mental health conditions.
As more legislation passes regarding psilocybin as a medical treatment, we should take the time to acknowledge the indigenous people who have held onto their cultural practices for hundreds of years despite the brutality of colonization.
Psychedelic therapy has gone so far in America due to the appropriation of indigenous Americans’ knowledge. American banker R. Gordon Wasson is primarily attributed to the discovery of psychedelic mushrooms in the Western world. However, Wasson learned about the shrooms during a research trip in Mexico, where he received ceremonious mushrooms from a Huautla medicine woman. Wasson took advantage of her generosity and exposed the sacred knowledge he received along with the location of the town where he encountered the magic shroom. Suddenly, the village of Huautla de Jimenez was flocked with psychedelic tourists eager to try out the “newfound” drug.
The encounter between Wasson and the medicine woman is the first recorded instance of an outsider being allowed to participate in a Mazatec mushroom ceremony. Since then, the story of the sacred roots of psilocybin has been lost to Western medicine and commodification.
The Mazatec were not the only indigenous peoples who used psychedelic mushrooms for spiritual purposes. Still, their story demonstrates how often indigenous knowledge is stolen and taken advantage of. Despite its constant appearance on the news, psilocybin is not some new compound that scientists have put together, but instead, a naturally occurring medicine with religious and cultural significance.
HB 869 has yet to reach a House Committee hearing, though if all goes well, the General Assembly’s voters will decide its fate. If the Missouri State gov chooses to pass this bill, the state will legalize medical psilocybin use and decriminalize recreational use for individuals over 21. The proposed effective date is August 28, 2023.
Tupper, Kenneth W., Evan Wood, Richard Yensen, and Matthew W. Johnson. 2015. “Psychedelic Medicine: A Re-Emerging Therapeutic Paradigm.” Canadian Medical Association Journal 187 (14): 1054–59. https://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.141124.