Vermont Senate Passes Legislation To Establish Psychedelic Working Group

The modern-day “psychedelic renaissance” doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon in Vermont.
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Vermont is the latest state looking to further examine and embrace the potential of psychedelics, as the state Senate recently passed a measure to establish a working group to research psychedelics and confirm whether, and to what extent, they may be used in therapeutic settings.

Senators approved the legislation, S. 114, on March 27, and it now heads to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

Vermont Senators Recognize Psychedelic Potential

Sen. Martine Gulick spoke to the potential of this research, given the growing body of literature finding that psychedelic compounds like psilocybin, found in “magic” mushrooms, could help to ease an array of mental health symptoms and conditions, including bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress and other trauma-related disorders and more.

Americans appear to be growing more supportive of psilocybin use for therapy as well, with nine in 10 finding its use to be “morally positive” in a recent survey. Additionally, other compounds like MDMA, LSD and ketamine have been shown to offer a number of potential mental health benefits.

“Many would argue that these particular substances never should have been designated as Class One drugs to begin with because their power to heal far outweighs their ability to harm, especially when taken therapeutically with a doctor or health care practitioner,” Gulick said.

Ahead of the bill’s second reading, Gulcik added that the legislation “will start the state of Vermont on a journey to explore other possibilities and other options to treating mental illness.”

A Potential Psychedelic Advisory Group in The Green Mountain State

As it is currently written, the proposal would allow Vermont to establish an eight-member Psychedelic Therapy Advisory Working Group to examine psychedelic use as a means to improve physical and mental health. 

The group would also make findings and recommendations “regarding the advisability of the establishment of a State program similar to other jurisdictions” allowing healthcare providers to  administer psychedelics in a therapeutic setting. The working group would also examine how legal access to psychedelics would impact public health.

The working group would review current research on therapeutic use of psychedelic compounds, along with laws and programs introduced by other jurisdictions. Additionally, the group would be directed to seek out perspectives from individuals with lived experience on the therapeutic use of psychedelics and to provide “potential timelines for universal and equitable access to psychedelic assisted treatments.”

The bill was originally introduced with provisions that would legalize use and possession of psilocybin, though the Senate Health and Welfare Committee decided to eliminate that section in March to focus on the working group explicitly.

Sen. Ginny Lyons (D) suggested that decriminalization could “get in the way” of therapeutic use at the time, adding, “What we’re looking for is the value of therapeutic use.”

Riding the Wave of Psychedelic Research and Reform

While it’s still uncertain if the bill will ultimately pass, the effort represents a growing number of states looking to embrace new wave of psychedelic research and reform, largely with a focus on psilocybin.

Denver, Colorado became the first city to decriminalize psilocybin in 2019, with the entire state of Colorado following suit in 2022. Oregon became the first state to both decriminalize psilocybin and legalize its supervised use in 2020. A number of U.S. cities including Oakland and Santa Cruz, California; Washington D.C.; Somerville, Cambridge and Northampton, Massachusetts; Seattle, Washington and Detroit, Michigan have similarly moved to decriminalize psilocybin in recent years.

Looking at the current legislative session, psychedelic research and reform continues to be a popular focus. 

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb recently signed a measure including provisions to fund clinical trials on the clinical benefits of psilocybin, while Utah Gov. Spencer Cox recently authorized a program allowing hospitals to administer psilocybin and MDMA as an alternative treatment option.

Mirroring Vermont’s current effort, Maryland’s Senate and House of Delegates also enacted a measure that would create a task force to study possible regulatory frameworks for therapeutic access to psychedelic substances. Lawmakers in Vermont’s neighboring Connecticut are also considering legislation that would decriminalize psilocybin. 

And this list is far from exhaustive, with plenty more efforts happening nationwide to continue exploring the potential of psychedelic compounds, lessen or eliminate criminal penalties and possibly increase accessibility. 

Of course, it’s unclear what the road ahead holds, but if these trends persist, it’s likely to include increasingly more psychedelic research and reform across the nation.

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