Only a month after Senate Bill 5263 was proposed, it has been replaced by a substitute bill that varies drastically from the original plan. The new version of the bill has discarded key sections regarding the legalization of psilocybin services throughout Washington state, with an updated goal to “provide advice and recommendations on developing a comprehensive regulatory framework for access to regulated psilocybin” instead.
This news comes with great surprise, as it is the second time lawmakers have rejected the psychedelic legislation.
Founder and sponsor of the bill, Sen. Jesse Salomon, was taken aback by the decision. In an email, he states: “I am going over the implications of the amendment and frankly, sorting out how I feel about it.”
Marijuana Moment reported that the bill was overhauled by Sen. Karen Keiser “to clean up what was still messy legislation.” Although the bill underwent significant modifications, Keiser admitted during the hearing that her replacement bill was put together “in the last two days” and” was not a refined bill.”
The bill was changed from an 81-page psychedelic reform legislation into an eight-page proposal to study the medical uses of psilocybin in a regulated program.
Several advocates point fingers at Governor Jay Inslee for the bill’s failure, arguing that he outright gutted the bill. Others are disappointed with Sen. Keiser, who sponsored the original bill. In her defense, Keiser assures that the bill was not ready to be passed without significant changes and further study. She admits she had “grave concerns about the original bill” and mentions that she “was witness to the problems that grew out of passing medical cannabis without enough structure for a regulatory system that ensured a safe product and a licensing system that had real oversight.”
Many individuals who attended the public comment hearing expressed frustration with SB 5263’s changes and urged the Senator to return the bill to its original plan. However, it appears as though lawmakers have already made up their minds about the bill and will require further research before psilocybin services can be safely rolled out in the state of Washington.
At the beginning of January 2023, Democrat State Sen. Jesse Salomon introduced a revision of the state’s Psilocybin Services Wellness and Opportunity Act, or Senate Bill 5263, to the Senate Labor & Congress Committee. Senators Frockt, Hasegawa, Liias, and Kuderer are just a handful of the 22 sponsors who support the proposed psychedelic legislation.
The bill aims to legalize psilocybin for therapeutic use in adults over 21. Salomon argues that the psilocybin services offered under the bill would be a “consumer oriented protected service for people so first it is not a recreational sales bill, this is a drug that’s different than marijuana.”
Though many states have legalized cannabis for its medical benefits, it was also made available as a recreational drug. SB 5263 will only allow psilocybin use for “wellness and personal growth” and not for casual usage.
The bill outlines a detailed plan on how the services would be rolled out in a two-year development period and offers legal protection to those seeking or administering the therapy. Additionally, individuals over the age of 21 are protected from law enforcement if they are found growing psychedelic mushrooms or possessing them without a psilocybin services facilitator.
SB 5263’s primary focus is to establish a regulated system that would allow Washington residents a safe means of obtaining psilocybin to treat their medical needs.
This push comes after various clinical trials that have found strong evidence supporting psilocybin as a treatment for multiple mental health conditions such as PTSD, addiction, depression, and anxiety (1).
The bill highlights that its purpose is to “improve the physical, mental, and social well-being of all people in this state, and to reduce the prevalence of behavioral health disorders among adults in this state by providing for supported adult use of psilocybin under the supervision of a trained and licensed psilocybin service facilitator.”
Highly trained facilitators and regulated standards for psilocybin are crucial to maintaining the safety of patients who seek a novel treatment for their condition. With comprehensive guidelines on how the services will come into action, individuals can safely access psilocybin to treat any mental health conditions they may have.
According to Marijuana Moment, the Washington state legislature proposed a budget bill last year, requesting $200,000 to fund and establish a new workgroup to investigate the possibility of legalizing psilocybin-facilitated services. Additionally, it considered using the current cannabis regulatory frameworks to “monitor manufacturing, testing, and tracking of cannabis to determine suitability and adaptations required for use with psilocybin.” Much of the bill was dedicated to analyzing and revising a previous version, SB 5660. The legislation reached a Senate committee hearing but was never enacted.
Though the new bill is very similar to SB 5660, it contains several amendments that consider the successes and failures of Oregon and Colorado in their already-approved psilocybin therapy bills. Some of the new amendments include:
These new amendments promise a more comprehensive and practical approach to rolling out the new services while avoiding the pitfalls of Oregon and Colorado. The significant bipartisan support SB 5263 has gathered suggests that the bill’s latest version has more popularity and a greater chance of passing than its previous version.
Facilitated psilocybin services are a range of therapeutic practices that involve using psilocybin to explore set intentions that a patient is trying to work through. These services use a specially trained facilitator who guides patients through their experience in a safe and supportive environment.
The facilitator has many roles, such as educating the patient about the effects of psilocybin, setting the patient’s intentions, and helping the patient work through any intense emotions that could occur during treatment. In many ways, the facilitator would play the role of a talk therapist or psychiatrist, though many services have found the most efficiency with psychotherapy as well.
States can offer facilitated psilocybin services to people in clinical settings, retreat centers, and private practices. The quantity of different settings allows for the treatment to be more accessible for those who seek treatment.
The bill does not limit the services to those without a prescription or diagnosis and would not “require a client to be diagnosed with or have any particular medical condition as a condition to being provided psilocybin services.”
During the 2023 legislative session, several other states, such as California, New York, Missouri, New Hampshire, and Connecticut, sought psychedelic reform. Like Washington, they are still awaiting their verdict. Additionally, many cities nationwide have decriminalized psilocybin use, including Seattle. Proponents of the psychedelic legislation view the growing popularity as a promising sign that states all throughout America will soon legalize psilocybin services.
In the past, the legal system has been harsh on those caught with psilocybin. Despite it being a natural substance that has been culturally used as medicine by indigenous people for centuries, psilocybin has been socially and politically demonized, which led to a halt in studies that would prove its therapeutic background. Legalizing psilocybin for medicinal use would allow individuals to benefit from the substance without fear of criminal repercussions or safety issues. Many supporters of the bill argue that allowing access to psilocybin in a regulated setting, under the guidance of trained professionals, can provide a safe means of experiencing the substance without the risk of a “bad trip.”
Psilocybin has shown promise in treating various mental health conditions, particularly for individuals without success taking traditional medication. If these bills pass, psilocybin therapy will become more accessible to those who need it, offering them an alternative to treatments that may not work for them.