The Washington Psilocybin Services Act (SB 5263) has been approved by both the House and Senate in Washington and is now awaiting Governor Jay Inslee’s signature. This bill seeks to decriminalize and regulate psilocybin, the psychoactive component found in magic mushrooms. While federal law considers psilocybin a Schedule I drug with no medical use, Washington is following the lead of Oregon and Colorado by adopting a more progressive approach towards psilocybin.
Psilocybin has shown promise as a therapeutic treatment for various mental health disorders that are resistant to traditional therapies. Conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), end-of-life anxiety, and depression have been found to potentially benefit from psilocybin therapy. Recognizing these therapeutic qualities, the Washington legislature referred to the FDA’s recognition of psilocybin’s potential in treating treatment-resistant depression.
“(a) Determined that preliminary clinical evidence indicates that 2 psilocybin may demonstrate substantial improvement over available therapies for treatment-resistant depression; and
(b) Granted a breakthrough therapy designation for a treatment 5 that uses psilocybin as a therapy for such depression.”
It’s worth noting that despite the FDA’s findings, which contradict the classification of psilocybin as having no medical use, the Washington legislature takes the therapeutic potential of psilocybin seriously.
The Original Washington Psilocybin Bill
The initial version of the bill, introduced in January, aimed to allow adults aged 21 and older to use psilocybin for wellness and personal growth purposes under professional supervision. The original bill consisted of approximately 80 pages and proposed a comprehensive regulatory framework for psilocybin use.
One of the key provisions of the original bill was the establishment of a two-year development program that would have concluded in September 2025. After this period, individuals over 21 would have gained access to psilocybin services through licensed psilocybin service centers. Additionally, the bill required the state to begin accepting applications for various licenses related to the manufacture, operation, facilitation, and testing of psilocybin products by January 2, 2024. Unfortunately, the approved bill, which has been significantly shortened to approximately 10 pages, eliminated most of the progress outlined in the original bill.
The Approved Washington Psilocybin Bill
The approved bill removes substantial portions of the original bill, including its milestones and mandates. Instead, it introduces task forces, advisory boards, and a pilot program at the University of Washington (UW) without a specified end date for rulemaking and fact-finding.
The UW Pilot Program is intended to offer psilocybin services to eligible individuals and must be operational by January 1, 2025. In contrast, the original bill would have allowed private, licensed psilocybin service centers to administer psilocybin treatments by the end of 2025. With the current approved bill, the opening of licensed service centers is likely to be delayed significantly. The findings and clinical data obtained from the UW pilot program will inform the creation and implementation of rules and regulations, requiring review by the administrative bodies involved in the process.
Earlier this year, the Governor’s policy advisor for public health expressed skepticism regarding the original bill, stating that it lacked support from available scientific and medical evidence. The approved bill lacks clear mandates and timelines for policy goals, indicating that the process of enacting the law will likely be more protracted. However, given the hesitation expressed by the Governor’s policy advisor regarding the original bill, this revised version stands a higher chance of approval.
Two Steps Forward, One Step Back
The approved bill can be seen as a compromise to address concerns raised by lawmakers who are skeptical of non-FDA-endorsed drug use, including the Governor himself. Despite the growing body of clinical data demonstrating the efficacy of psilocybin therapy, there exists a significant group of lawmakers and voters who may not fully comprehend or support these treatments. While the approved bill represents a positive step forward, it does deviate significantly from the original bill. As a result, the formal establishment of licensed psilocybin service centers in Washington will likely be delayed indefinitely.
Stay tuned to the Psychedelics Law Blog for further updates on this evolving situation.