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Drug reform supporters in Virginia recently secured a major win after Virginia senators voted in favor of a psilocybin-rescheduling bill. The initiative, introduced by Senator Ghazala Hashmi, would reschedule psilocybin to a lower schedule and establish a psilocybin advisory board to oversee the study of the psychedelic’s therapeutic potential.
The bill received overwhelming approval from the Senate Education and Health Subcommittee on Health Professions and passed after a 6 to 1 vote in its favor.
Interestingly, the legislation, which will now advance to the full committee for further consideration, is a narrower version of a bill Hashmi filed during the last session to completely decriminalize psilocybin, the main psychoactive agent in so-called magic mushrooms. Rather than full decriminalization, Hashmi’s psilocybin bill will reclassify the psychedelic from Schedule I to Schedule II on top of establishing a Virginia Psilocybin Advisory Board.
According to Hashmi’s opening remarks during the Friday vote, the legislation would open the door for the creation of future treatment options for people who weren’t experiencing good results from traditional medications. She noted that several universities across the country were conducting “increasingly compelling research” into the therapeutic potential of psilocybin and other psychedelics.
Although most of this research is still in its infancy, it has revealed that psychedelics could make safe and effective treatments for certain mental health conditions without causing the side effects typically seen in psychiatric pharmaceutical medications.
The proposed Virginia Psilocybin Advisory Board would be responsible for “developing a long-term strategic plan” to grant the public access to medical-grade psilocybin while studying and monitoring the federal policies, regulations and laws that govern psilocybin.
The board’s 12 members would comprise an addiction medicine specialist, public health and safety officials, a mycologist, a physician with a PTSD specialization and a clinical researcher. Virginia’s governor would be tasked with appointing the 12 members of the Virginia Psilocybin Advisory Board.
The text of the legislation notes that while it would not legalize the medical use of psilocybin, the advisory board would be charged with reviewing research and studies on the safety and efficiency of using psilocybin to treat mental health conditions. The board would also analyze research on the specifications, guidelines and requirements for providing therapeutic psilocybin services in the state. Members of the board would be required to provide the governor and legislature with a report of the board findings by December 1 every year.
If lawmakers choose to vote the bill into law, it would place psilocybin in Schedule II of the state’s Drug Control Act and make possession of psilocybin a class 1 misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 and one year in prison.
The growing awareness of the therapeutic potential of psychedelics bodes well for industry actors such as atai Life Sciences N.V. (NASDAQ: ATAI) because any formulations they bring to market will find a population that already appreciates the many benefits that psychedelics possess.
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