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New Bill Could Provide a Solution to California's Stalled Psychedelic Research Programs
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New Bill Could Provide a Solution to California's Stalled Psychedelic Research Programs

Seraiah Alexander
Seraiah Alexander
June 03, 2024
3 min

California scientists have been researching the potential of psychedelic substances as a means of treating addiction. However, delays from the state’s Research Advisory Panel have significantly stalled their progress. 

The panel responsible for managing studies involving controlled substances has not met since August 2023. As a result, there is a long list of research projects awaiting approval, which is slowing down the process of determining the therapeutic potential of psychedelics. 

However, California lawmakers have recently introduced Assembly Bill 2841, which aims to streamline the approval process so that critical research can proceed without any more interruptions. 

Legislative delays

The Research Advisory Panel’s long-term hiatus stems from legal and procedural issues. Although previous meetings had been conducted as private sessions, concerns regarding the Bagley-Keene Act, which requires state bodies to hold open meetings, have complicated this process. The act is meant to give the public access to transparency and government proceedings. However, its application to the panel has raised problems about exposing sensitive information, such as trade secrets, causing the panel to cease meeting altogether. 

Backlogged research

The ongoing inactivity of the panel has caused a major backlog of research projects. There are currently 42 new psychedelic studies and 28 amendments awaiting approval. Yet without the panel’s authorization, researchers can not move forward with their studies. Researchers like Ziva Cooper, director of the UCLA Center for Cannabis and Cannabinoids, cannot proceed with federally approved projects due to the panel’s holdup. Without word from the panel, Cooper and many other researchers are preparing to face the harsh reality of losing funding or laying off staff because of budget cuts.

According to an analysis compiled for a state committee, the halt “has broad implications, costing researchers money in expired grants and contingent grants, shortened patents on new drugs, lost wages for research personnel, lost talent, and lost costs of research drugs for human use that will expire before use.”

What is AB 2841?

Assembly Bill 2841 (AB 2841) was proposed by Assembly Member Marie Waldron (R) as a way to address this growing conflict. The bill, if passed, would allow the California Research Advisory Panel to hold closed sessions when discussing studies with more sensitive information that can’t be shared with the public. 

AB 2841 has received support from the nonprofit organization Veterans Exploring Treatment Solutions, which advocates for research into the potential benefits of psychedelics for treating depression and other conditions affecting military veterans. 

“Psychedelic research has ground to halt in California — including numerous VA studies,” said Khurshid Khoja, the program’s director of public policy. “AB 2841 is an urgently needed response to address this crisis.” 

However, many researchers believe the bill is not enough and think the panel should be completely eliminated. They argue that the panel obstructed research even when they were having regular meetings, since a state review could push back a study by at least five months and cost over $100,000 in staffing costs. 

Despite opposing arguments, analysis deems the panel necessary since it “has a record of providing an extra level of protection, which is important given the volume of controlled substance research that occurs in California.” 

The future of psychedelic research in California

Since its initial introduction in February 2024, AB 2841 has advanced through the legislative process, passing unanimously by the Assembly. It has now been referred to the Senate, where the Committees on Health and Judiciary will review it on June 5, 2024. If passed by the Senate, the bill will be sent to California Governor Gavin Newsom, who will make the final decision regarding its approval.

If AB 2841 is enacted into law, scientists can carry on with their research without further bureaucratic delays, allowing them to potentially make groundbreaking discoveries in addiction treatment and other areas related to psychedelic therapy. 

However, the debate over the necessity of the Research Advisory Panel continues. The bill’s eventual outcome will have a direct impact on the landscape of controlled substance research in California and could potentially set a precedent for how these substances are regulated and conducted in the future.


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legislation
Seraiah Alexander

Seraiah Alexander

Content Editor

Table Of Contents

1
Legislative delays
2
Backlogged research
3
What is AB 2841?
4
The future of psychedelic research in California

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