A bill has been introduced in the Washington State Senate to legalize the therapeutic use of mushrooms containing the psychedelic psilocybin for the treatment of behavioral health problems.
State Senator Jesse Salomon introduced Senate Bill 5660, the Washington Psilocybin Wellness and Opportunity Act, which is modeled after a similar law passed in Oregon in 2020 which goes into effect in 2023. In 2019, Denver was the first US city to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms. Following Denver’s lead, the Seattle City Council decriminalized "magic mushrooms" last October.
Washington's law is entering the second year of a two-year phase-in and would differ from Oregon’s in that doctor or licensed counselors would not be the ones required to prescribe psilocybin, the active psychedelic ingredient in the mushrooms. Psilocybin would be available not just for therapeutic use but also for "creative" purposes.
Under the proposed legislation, users would not have to be diagnosed with any disorder to be able to take the drug.
People aged 21 and over would be permitted to have a psychedelic experience at a registered facility with supervision.
Salomon told King 5 News, "Some people want to use it for their own self-exploration and betterment without having a diagnosis. Who am I to say they shouldn't do that?"
He added, "Native, Indigenous societies have been doing this for thousands of years. We have to give them a way for their traditional shamans and practitioners to do this. We don't want the barrier to be too high because asking someone to be a traditional healer and a Ph.D. is asking a lot of anyone."
Researchers have found that psilocybin therapy can also worsen symptoms of certain mental illnesses and as a result is not recommended for people with disorders such as schizophrenia or severe depression.
A 2016 Johns Hopkins Medicine survey urged "caution" in using the drug. Though the survey found that a third of respondents described psilocybin use as one of the most meaningful experiences of their lives, 10 percent said they put themselves or others at risk for physical harm. An additional 2 percent stated they sought medical help after using the drug.
University of Washington researchers have already begun clinical trials of the drug to treat depression in health care workers.
The bill is expected to receive a hearing at the legislature's health care committee during the current legislative session.
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