Psychedelics Task Force Bills Signed by Maryland Governor

The task force will include 17 members set to review multiple facets of natural psychedelic substances such as including psilocybin, psilocin, DMT, and mescaline.
Maryland
President Biden and Maryland Governor Wes Moore. Courtesy Shutterstock

On May 17, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore signed two bills that will create a psychedelic task force, called the “Task Force on Responsible Use of Natural Psychedelic Substances,” which was established by the passage of House Bill 548 and Senate Bill 1009.

Effective starting on July 1, 2024, the two bills green light recruitment for the task force, which will consist of 17 members. Together they will research a variety of considerations for “natural psychedelic substances,” including psilocybin, psilocin, dimethyltryptamine (DMT), and mescaline (but not peyote).

The task force’s mission is to recommend law and policy changes in order to build a program that “enables broad, equitable, and affordable access to psychedelic substances.” Task force members will also assess the best research available to better understand public benefits and uses of “natural psychedelic substances,” as well as review potential risks, and examine the best courses of action to increase accessibility. 

Additionally, the task force is also required to study various barriers for healthcare practitioners and facilitators, such as insurance, licensing restrictions, zoning, advertising, as well as financial services.

Members of the task force will also need to review how to approach civil penalty punishments for “the planting, cultivating, purchasing, transporting, distributing, or possessing of or other engagement with natural psychedelic substances.” The bills also address the requirement of expunging Maryland residents who were convicted of nonviolent psychedelic-related crimes, as well as releasing those serving time in prison for such crimes.

The 17-member task force will include the following: a Senator representative, a House representative, the Secretary of Health (or Secretary’s designee), the Secretary of Disabilities (or a designee), the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (or a designee), the Director of the Maryland Cannabis Association (or a designee), a representative from either the University System of Maryland, Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research, or Sheppard Pratt (a private, nonprofit healthcare provider), a representative from a Native American tribe with experience in religious and/or spiritual use of psychedelics, a behavioral health expert, a substance use disorder expert, a chronic pain treatment expert, a psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy expert, a psychedelic researcher, an expert regarding care in underserved communities, a drug policy reform expert, a law enforcement expert, a patient suffering from conditions in which psychedelics can help treat, and finally a physician who has experience with the “appropriate use” of psychedelic substances.

The task force will be required to combine their findings in a report and sent to Moore and the general assembly no later than July 31, 2025. However, the task force will remain operating until December 31, 2026.

HB-548 was introduced earlier this year in January, and passed in the House by March 13, with a final passing in the Senate by April 3, while SB-1009 followed suite with an introduction in February, followed by passage in the Senate on March 18 and House passage on April 2.

While SB-1009 was still being considered in the Senate, sponsor Sen. Brian Feldman explained that cannabis has received its fair share of studies, and now it’s time to focus on the benefits fo other psychedelics. “This is actually an area that’s been studied far more than cannabis, whether for behavioral health issues related to post traumatic stress disorder, addiction broader behavioral health, depression issues, addiction, chronic pain, just another tool in the toolbox when you’re dealing with a treatments,” Feldman said in March, according to a WYPR news report.

University of Baltimore, Maryland pharmaceutical studies professor, Andrew Coop, explained that there are numerous studies being conducted and show a lot of promise with psychedelic-assisted therapies. “There are 54 clinical trials currently going on in Maryland and again, with a safety profile, almost unheard of showing including no overdose, no withdrawal, no hangover and no addiction,” Coop said. “There are clinical trials funded by the National Institutes of Health. The Food and Drug Administration has designated psilocybin a breakthrough therapy. The Department of Defense is funding psychedelic research for veterans. This shows the support of the federal government and the safety profile.”

Maryland legalized medical cannabis in 2013, while adult-use cannabis was approved by voters in November 2022, and sales began in summer 2023. Approximately 100 medical cannabis dispensaries were permitted to sell adult-use cannabis products at launch, and during the first week of recreational sales the state collected $20 million.

The mainstream status of cannabis continues to grow, and it’s affecting more than just consumers. Maryland Law Enforcement officer applicants are currently required to abstain from cannabis use for three years before being considered, but in January Montgomery County Police Chief Marcus Jones stood up against that rule. “I think in today’s environment, where we are with the legalization of cannabis, that has now restricted law enforcement agencies, particularly larger agencies, across the state,” said Jones.
In the meantime, Marylanders are already learning about the benefits of psychedelic-assisted therapy firsthand. Businesses such as Inner Path Wellness, based in Baltimore, Maryland, are offering an outlet to experiment with psychedelics as a treatment. Patient Tim Hamilton provided an oral testimony to the General Assembly on March 14 about the efficacy of such treatments. “They saved my life and it’s made me a better husband, a better father, and a better person,” Hamilton said. “It can help millions of people.”

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