PsychedeLinks is a curated selection of top news stories impacting business, research, and culture in the psychedelics ecosystem, crafted by Emerge Law Group’s groundbreaking Psychedelics Group.
Emerge’s Hot Take
The California Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) released its review of the proposed Psychedelic Wellness and Healing Initiative of 2024 late last week. The initiative was submitted for inclusion in the 2024 state ballot early in December, approximately two months after California Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill that would have decriminalized the personal possession of small amounts of some psychedelics. If passed, the new measure would legalize “entheogenic substances” for use by individuals 18 and older and would regulate the distribution of these substances for therapeutic use. The initiative defines entheogenic substances as “controlled substances with the potential for medicinal, therapeutic, or spiritual use,” including cannabis and several psychedelics such as psilocybin, ibogaine, and MDMA.
Additional changes proposed under the initiative include:
- Legalization of cultivation of psychedelic plants and fungi on private property (with the approval of the owner);
- Provisions against municipal bans on individual or group activities permitted under the measure; and
- Mandatory recalls or dismissals and resentencing for those individuals serving criminal sentences for convictions over conduct related to entheogenic substances as defined in the measure.
The LAO’s review of the measure was mixed. The LAO expressed concerns that the introduction of psychedelics into the legalized market may pull business away from the already existing legal cannabis market and warned that the regulatory costs of implementing and monitoring new programs under the measure may far exceed the regulatory revenues generated, particularly if a large number of cannabis businesses opt to offer a wider array of entheogenic products. The LAO acknowledged however that concerns at this point are speculative, and that it is also possible that the measure could lead to an increase in state tax revenue via both sales and personal income tax. Further, the Office projected that the proposed changes to legal penalties and law enforcement surrounding psychedelics would likely reduce incarceration and policing costs in the state. The LAO was skeptical though as to if the savings would be substantial, estimating a net reduction in costs of “a few million dollars annually” that the Office predicts would be “redirected to other law enforcement, corrections, and court activities.” Overall, the LAO deemed the potential fiscal impacts of the initiative to be “uncertain.”
“It’s true that the fiscal impact of legalizing psychedelics in California can’t fully be predicted at this time. There’s not a lot of data out there to base such predictions on. States such as Oregon that have passed similar measures are still in the very early days of a legal psilocybin ecosystem,” says Emerge attorney Kaci Hohmann.
“What’s also true is that such fiscal uncertainty should not deter us from moving forward with legalizing use of psychedelics,” Hohmann continues. “Psychedelics hold great potential for a myriad of uses and the waitlists at service centers in Oregon are hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people long. Many of the prospective clients on these wait lists are from neighboring states such as California. There is a quantifiable demand for access to services in clients’ home states.”
Other Noteworthy News
Over 700 People Have Used Psychedelic Mushrooms Under Oregon’s Program in 2023
“In an unassuming house in Northwest Portland, for the last two months, visitors have been among the first people in the country to use ‘magic’ mushrooms under a legal state program. Since they started operating this fall, Chariot has seen about 60 clients. Chariot is one of 20 licensed service centers in the state and one of the centers that began seeing clients in Oregon in 2023. According to informal data gathered by Healing Advocacy Fund, a nonprofit that advocates for legal psilocybin programs in Oregon and Colorado, at least 715 people have accessed services in Oregon since the program officially launched this year. Advocates of psilocybin say it can help people dealing with a host of issues, from trauma to addiction. And many are hoping that Oregon’s program allows for more extensive research into the therapeutic properties of the substance, which remains illegal at the federal level.
“For Courtney Campbell [who runs Chariot], it was his own experience with psilocybin that led him to get trained as a facilitator and then open Chariot. He was medicated for years for anxiety and depression, but in 2020 he began the process of getting off of his medication and then going on a psilocybin retreat in Jamaica. The experience helped him so much, he said that when he came back he felt almost obligated to give other people the same experience. So he pivoted from filmmaking and with the help of his wife, also named Courtney Campbell, he launched Chariot. Campbell said most of the people coming through his doors were first-time psilocybin users and many were somewhat apprehensive. Of the roughly 60 clients that Chariot has hosted, Campbell estimates about half are from out of state. ‘I don’t know what [psilocybin] does,’ Campbell said. ‘But what I know is that it helped me with my depression and anxiety. It’s the only substance that makes me not want to do any other substance.’”
Biden Signs Defense Spending Bill Funding Psychedelic Research
FORBES – “President Joseph Biden last week signed a defense spending bill that funds clinical trials researching psychedelic drugs to treat post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries experienced by active-duty members of the U.S. military. The president signed the legislation, known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), on Friday after the bill was approved by Congress earlier this month. Under the legislation, the Department of Defense would be required to establish a system to allow active-duty service members with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injuries (TBI) to participate in clinical trials studying the psychedelic drugs psilocybin, MDMA, ibogaine and 5-MeO-DMT as treatments for their conditions. The legislation appropriates $10 million for psychedelics research, which could be conducted in conjunction with academic institutions and eligible federal and state agencies. The measure also sets a 180-day time limit from the day the bill becomes effective for the Department of Defense to establish the psychedelics research program.”
Psilocybin May Help Reduce Depression Symptoms in People with Cancer
“People with cancer who underwent psilocybin-assisted therapy in a group setting saw reductions in symptoms of depression, a small clinical trial found. In the study, 30 people with cancer received a single 25-milligram dose of the psychedelic psilocybin. After 8 weeks, researchers reported, their depression severity scores dropped by an average of 19 points. In addition, half of study participants showed full remission of depression symptoms after 1 week, an effect that was sustained throughout the 8-week phase 2, open-label trial. Overall, 80% of participants experienced a sustained response. ‘Our study provides encouraging insights into the potential benefits of psilocybin-assisted therapy for individuals with cancer and major depression,’ said Dr. Yvan Beaussant, a study author as well as a hematologist and palliative care physician at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School in Boston. Adverse effects related to the treatment, such as nausea and headache, were ‘generally mild and expected,’ the researchers wrote in their paper published in the journal Cancer.
“Psilocybin, the active compound in ‘magic mushrooms,’ acts on a certain type of serotonin receptor in the brain, and alters perception, affect, and ego function. A growing number of research studies have found that psilocybin-assisted therapy may be an effective treatment for major depressive disorder, including in people with treatment-resistant depression. However, ‘while the focus of some studies has been on treatment-resistant depression, our findings in the recent phase 2 clinical trial suggest that psilocybin-assisted therapy may offer benefits to individuals with cancer and major depression, regardless of their previous response to other depression treatments,’ Beaussant told Healthline.”
Timeline of Oregon’s Legal Psilocybin Program
OREGON LIVE – “Oregon’s legal psilocybin program has been nearly a decade in the making.” In this article, OPB details the Oregon psilocybin program’s timeline of events.
WATCH: Matthew Perry’s Tragic Passing Sheds Light on Ketamine Stigma in Mental Health
PSYCHEDELIC SPOTLIGHT (via YouTube) – “On this episode of the Psychedelic Spotlight Podcast, [PS] dives into a critical discussion sparked by the recent news surrounding Matthew Perry’s passing and its consequent impact on public perception of ketamine and other psychedelics used in therapeutic settings. Host David Flores welcomes Dr. Steven L. Mandel, President and Founder of Ketamine Clinics Los Angeles and Sam Mandel, CEO of KCLA, to shed light on the misconceptions and stigmas associated with ketamine therapy.”
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