Several lawmakers throughout the U.S. have been moving toward the legalization of psychedelics like LSD, peyote, and psilocybin. First, Oregon, then Colorado successfully legalized the substances for facilitated psilocybin services. California is also trailing behind in attempts to decriminalize certain psychedelics. Next is the state of New Hampshire if their new psychedelic legislation passes in House Bill 328.
On January 5, 2023, republican state representative Kevin Verville introduced measure HB 328.
According to the bill text, “possession or use of a hallucinogenic drug by a person 21 years of age or older shall not be an offense”. The proposed House bill would also minimize punishments for individuals under the age of 21 who are caught possessing or manufacturing with intent to sell. Despite psychedelic substances being federally illegal, the state of New Hampshire can use its power to bypass the law for its citizens.
Last year, lawmakers, including Verville, attempted to pass HB 1349 to decriminalize psychedelics. Decriminalization meant that the substances would still be illegal, but penalties would be less severe. HB 1349 was tabled, however, and replaced with an amended version of the bill, which would completely legalize psychedelic use for adults of legal age. Since HB 328 has been recently released, it’s hard to tell how much support it will receive. Regardless, if New Hampshire is following in the footsteps of Oregon and Colorado, the passing of this bill is promising.
Even though the bill has yet to be voted on, the introduction of this measure is good news for advocates of the legalization of psychedelic substances. HB 328 could be a step towards reducing stigma and increasing public understanding of the potential benefits of psychedelics.
The push to legalize psychedelics after decades of classifying them as Schedule I narcotics is partially due to new scientific research supporting the effectiveness of psilocybin as a breakthrough drug. The FDA designates a drug as a breakthrough therapy if the treatment is more effective than any available drugs on the market. This medication classification is established for treating life-threatening conditions due to the urgent nature of having the drugs expedited for study and approval.
Studies have found that psilocybin has clinical potential as a treatment for several mental health conditions, such as treatment-resistant depression, anxiety, and PTSD (1). It impacts several parts of the brain responsible for mood regulation while assisting in the production of serotonin receptors. The promising results of psilocybin can help several individuals suffering from a life-long illness.
If HB 328 passes, psilocybin can be more accessible to those interested in using it as a treatment for their conditions, and facilitated psilocybin services can be made available throughout New Hampshire. Additionally, those who use psychedelic mushrooms for cultural purposes can practice freely without fear of punishment.
While the news of psilocybin as a treatment is an exciting advancement, it is crucial to credit the indigenous communities worldwide who have been using the substance for millennia. Naturally occurring psychedelic substances have been standardized into for-profit cures without acknowledging the knowledge and cultures that have guided Western medicine. These substances still hold great cultural significance to indigenous cultures who use them to heal not only the mind and body but also the spirit (2). Scientific studies may prove quantifiable points, but indigenous knowledge founded these ideas and must be respected for the spiritual significance these substances have.
Unfortunately, much of that historical knowledge has been destroyed due to colonization and, later, legal efforts to ban these drugs for public use. For instance, the Controlled Substance Act of 1970 impacted several communities across the United States, including some Native American tribes that traditionally used hallucinogenic substances for spiritual and medicinal purposes.
In December 2020, the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled a case in favor of a member of a Native American church tried for psychedelic use. Initially, Jeremy Mack was convicted in 2018, but the court later found that he was entitled to religious freedom rights guaranteed by the constitution of New Hampshire.
Many religions throughout the United States practice using entheogens (psychoactive substances) during ceremonies and rituals. Even if the bill does not pass, individuals who practice entheogenic religions remain protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which prohibits any government or state agencies from preventing religious exercises.
The New Hampshire Committee of Criminal Justice and Public Safety will decide whether or not they approve of this new state law by May 16, 2023. If the bill passes, the effective date will contribute to a potential new era of psychedelic tolerance, as more states disregard the federal law’s war against drugs. As a result, New Hampshire citizens of legal age have the freedom to consume psychedelic substances for medical, religious, or recreational purposes without the fear of persecution. The passing of this bill would not only be a victory for the state of New Hampshire, but it would also set a precedent for other states to follow in the future.