New York Psilocybin Legalization Bill Would Create Adult-Use Permits

May 24, 2024

A New York lawmaker has put forward a proposal to legalize psilocybin mushrooms and make them available for adults. This would be another major step for a state that legalized cannabis just a few years ago, and a first on the East Coast. It suggests a model for psilocybin legalization quite different from that seen in other states. But there’s likely a long road ahead before it could become law.

Assembly Member Amy Paulin (D) introduced Assembly Bill 10375 on May 21. It’s currently in the assembly health committee, which will decide whether to advance it further. The bill “Allows the growth, cultivation, and regulated adult use of psilocybin” and “provides for the certification of support service providers and the licensure of cultivators.”

Cultivators licensed by the state would be permitted to grow and sell psilocybin mushrooms. And the bill’s provisions would allow many different kinds of psilocybin mushrooms to be grown. An estimated several hundred species occur naturally, but Oregon permits only one, Psilocybe cubensis, to be used under its legalization model.

In New York, people over 18 would then need to obtain a permit to use psilocybin, after first undergoing a health screening.

The bill is would not decriminalize psilocybin completely, however. It would reduce the penalties to a violation of state law, with a maximum penalty of up to 15 days in jail for selling or manufacturing the drug without a license.

Avery Stempel, co-president of New Yorkers for Mental Health Alternatives, was part of a team that worked to draft the original version of the bill, which may go through many adaptations. He explained how it takes a different approach to the legalization models seen in Oregon and Colorado, through its creation of an adult-use permit system.

“We decided it was critical to inform users of preexisting condition conflicts, possible side effects, and expectations.”

Any adult could get a license to use the drug in different circumstances as they see fit. There would be no requirement for any medical diagnosis, meaning “recreational” use would be permitted. But adults would have to indicate, by taking an educational course, that they could use the drug safely.

“We decided it was critical to inform users of preexisting condition conflicts, possible side effects, and expectations,” Stempel told Filter. “We created a multi-tier permit system … it does build in the capacity for different types of use, not just individual home use but also group settings with training.”

The state would issue a “psilocybin permit” to anyone over 18 who first completes a health screening and an educational course. A person with a preexisting health condition that might put them at risk, including through potential interactions with their medications, could be denied a permit. These “exclusionary criteria” would be determined by a state advisory board.

The required online educational course would be about five hours long, and include information on history, science and safety information around psilocybin. The person would have to pay for this, with the cost of the course and the permit amounting to no more than $180, according to Stempel. Their permit would allow them to use psilocybin legally within a “public health framework.”

A licensed cultivator could only sell psilocybin—no more than 2 ounces a month—to a permit holder. But permit holders could also grow their own mushrooms at home, or receive them as gifts. These provisions could keep down costs and promote equitable access—avoiding the exclusionary prices seen with Oregon’s tightly regulated model.

The state would also certify “support services providers,” who would be trained to provide harm reduction services related to psilocybin use, at a certification cost of up to $1,580. Their services would be categorized as non-medical and non-therapeutic, and psilocybin could not be promoted as a cure or treatment for any medical condition.

Adult-use permit holders would be able to “engage” service providers if they chose, paying them to assist in a psilocybin session, for example. Adults with permits would be allowed to consume psilocybin in the privacy of their homes, or in facilitated locations authorized by the state.

This would creat different options for people who want to consume in a group or professional setting. “It would be up to the facilitators—it could be a small group around a bonfire in the forest,” Stempel said. “It’s all about the level of license that you apply for. [One person] is eligible to lead an experience for four friends, versus a stranger in a therapeutic setting. It does allow the possibility for that, but doesn’t require it.”

“We met with dozens of lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats, all of whom are very much in favor of access to psilocybin-containing mushrooms.”

Stempel owns a mushroom farm in Troy, where he grows culinary species like reishi and turkey tail. But in the past several years, he said, his customers’ interest in psilocybin has exploded. He also believes the issue has traction among lawmakers in Albany.

“Last year, we spent a week at the capital and we had 20 tables with advocacy groups from across the state,” he described. “We met with dozens of lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats, all of whom are very much in favor of access to psilocybin-containing mushrooms—especially for veterans and first responders, because of the evidence they have shown [to be] effective in treating PTSD and anxiety.” 

Despite this, there’s likely no chance of the bill being approved in 2024, when it’s still in the early committee state and the legislative session ends in June. But Stempel sees the long-term campaign to get it approved warming up.

The likely delay “gives us the opportunity to educate the lawmakers we’ve already spoken to, and [get] them to sign on,” he said. “There have been very few negative responses when we talk about psilocybin mushrooms … People on both sides of the fence, Republicans, Democrats and independents, are interested in authorizing help for people who need it.”

However, “The most frequent response we get is, ‘I haven’t heard about this from my constituents.’ So what we’re trying to do is build a network of advocates across the state that are calling their lawmakers and saying support this bill.”

The bill adds another dimension to widespread debates about what regulation should best look like.

This is not the first psilocybin bill to be filed in the New York legislature, and a handful of other attempts at psychedelic reform did not move forward.

The proposed model comes during a critical period in the history of psychedelic regulation, as many states and cities have taken different steps. On a federal level, the Food and Drug Administration is currently reviewing MDMA as a treatment for PTSD, with a final decision expected later in 2024. If approved, MDMA will be the first psychedelic drug the federal government allows as a medical treatment for mental health conditions.

This could have a domino effect, prompting even more cities and states to implement their own psychedelic reforms. And it would bode well for psilocybin specifically, which is right now being studied in advanced clinical trials for depression, and could also become an approved medicine in the near future. The proposed legalization model in New York adds another dimension to widespread debates about what regulation should best look like.

 


 

Photograph by mushroomobserver.org via Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons 3.0

Alexander Lekhtman

Alexander is Filter's staff writer. He writes about the movement to end the War on Drugs. He grew up in New Jersey and swears it's actually alright. He's also a musician hoping to change the world through the power of ledger lines and legislation. Alexander was previously Filter's editorial fellow.

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