Next up in the national wave to end psychedelic prohibition, Washington state legislators are considering a bill that would legalize psilocybin for “supported use” among adults over 21. In other words, psilocybin would be made available to those who want to use it, without requiring that they have a specific medical diagnosis. Those who are unable to travel, or with certain medical conditions, would be able to receive psilocybin products to their home and work with facilitators remotely, while others would be able to receive psilocybin at licensed service centers.
Similar to Oregon’s Psilocybin Services Act, which voters passed in November 2020, the Washington Psilocybin Services Wellness and Opportunity Act—a.k.a. SB 5660—offers a psilocybin program outside the bounds and protocols of the FDA, which otherwise would require a specific diagnosis in order for a patient to be prescribed psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy in federally legal contexts. (Indeed, psilocybin has already been put on the FDA fast track to become a prescription medication in assisted psychotherapy to treat major depression, and is expected to become available to patients early this decade.)
Filed this past Tuesday, SB 5660 is sponsored by state Senators Jesse Salomon and Liz Lovelett, and would foster a paradigm in which adults can receive psilocybin products and services from licensed professionals. Under the Washington Psilocybin Services Wellness and Opportunity Act, the following would be enacted:
- The Washington Department of Health would distribute licenses for psilocybin manufacturing, testing, facilitators, and other services
- Small businesses would receive some form of government support
- People with certain medical conditions would be able to receive psilocybin in their homes
- Legislators would form the Washington Psilocybin Advisory Board to help the Health Department create rules to implement the Act
- Facilitators would be able to provide psilocybin services remotely, including integration and preparation sessions around the psilocybin experience itself
- Employers would be disallowed from discriminating against people for receiving psilocybin services, unless they were impaired at work
- The state would create a Social Opportunity Program to help rectify the harms of the Drug War
Under the Social Opportunity Program, those coming from marginalized communities would be entitled to reduced licensing fees for psilocybin businesses, points to benefit their licensing score, and technical assistance. Psilocybin license applicants who come from regions of the state where unemployment is 20 percent higher than elsewhere, and where 20 percent of households receive federal supplemental nutrition assistance, would be able to receive an endorsement, or Micro Tier license designation, in order to get financial assistance in entering into the psilocybin industry.
If the state legislature passes the bill, the Health Department would then take 18 months to develop a regulatory framework before those seeking business licenses could file their applications, beginning in January of 2024. Local jurisdictions would also need to individually sanction psilocybin businesses within their borders.
While the Seattle City Council already decriminalized psychedelics this past October, SB 5660 is one of a handful of measures around the country that would legalize or decriminalize psilocybin at the state level. Aside from Oregon’s Psilocybin Services Act, California legislators have considered SB 519 to make psychedelics legal within the state, while residents may be able to vote on a psilocybin-specific decriminalization bill—the California Psilocybin Initiative 2022—if it receives enough signatures; and in New York last month, Assemblyman Pat Burke filed a bill that would create a psilocybin program similar to that in Oregon.
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In a blog post about Washington’s Psilocybin Services Wellness and Opportunity Act, one of the bill authors Mason Marks, who works as a senior fellow and project lead at Harvard Law School’s Project at Psychedelics Law and Regulation, called the bill a “novel approach,” that would not only create opportunities for adults to safely receive psilocybin but would also “create economic opportunities for people statewide.”