(The Center Square) – Two Democratic senators sponsored a bill aiming to decriminalize the possession of a range of psychedelics, including psilocybin and mescaline to better treat depression and other diseases.
Democratic Sens. Jeff Irwin of Ann Arbor and Adam Hollier of Detroit sponsored Senate Bill 631.
Irwin says the War on Drugs is the “granddaddy of all failed big government programs.” Like in 2018 when Michiganders legalized marijuana, he argues lumping psilocybin and other hallucinogenic drugs that aren’t prone to abuse next to addictive drugs like heroin and meth is a mistake.
“These are just not the type of drugs that suck people into that vortex of addiction that can sometimes be such a problem,” Irwin said in a phone interview with The Center Square.
Right now, Michiganders who face depression or mental health issues have an “ugly choice,” he said: They must break the law to get medicine that works for them and is least-dangerous, Irwin said. He says this bill would remove the burden of a possible arrest for people getting medicine.
Like marijuana, the federal government considers hallucinogenic substances a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substance Act alongside heroin. A Schedule 1 drug means the government says the drugs have a high potential for abuse and hold no accepted medical treatment in the United States.
The bill seeks to allow the manufacture, possession, and delivery of the above if the person doesn’t receive “money or other valuable consideration” in return.
However, "Money or other valuable consideration" does not include a reasonable fee for counseling, spiritual guidance, or a related service provided with the use of an entheogenic plant or fungus under the supervision of an individual providing the service.
The bill seeks to stop the prosecution of people who use these substances under certain circumstances. An "Entheogenic plant or fungus" means a plant or fungus with naturally occurring substances containing an indoleamine, tryptamine, or phenethylamine compound including dimethyltryptamine, ibogaine, mescaline, psilocybin, and psilocyn.
In 2020, the Ann Arbor City Council decriminalized naturally occurring psychedelics.
Some believe psychedelics hold medicinal benefits, especially for life-threatening diseases. A John Hopkins randomized, double-blind study found “Psilocybin produces substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer.”
“High-dose psilocybin produced large decreases in clinician- and self-rated measures of depressed mood and anxiety, along with increases in quality of life, life meaning, and optimism, and decreases in death anxiety,” the study found. “At 6-month follow-up, these changes were sustained, with about 80% of participants continuing to show clinically significant decreases in depressed mood and anxiety.”
The overall public fear of the unknown is one of the biggest hurdles, Irwin said. Many people had tried marijuana and had personal experience so they were less likely to believe people who claimed it would bring “reefer madness” when voters approved the measure in 2018.
“We need to more aggressively research how these substances could contribute to human happiness and human flourishing and reduced misery among people,” Irwin said. “They certainly have some promise in that regard. But like any medicine, there are also dangers so we need to step away from the fear and anger and step into research and knowledge in determining how these substances can be most useful.”
Sen. Roger Victory, R-Hudsonville, the chair of the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee where the bill was referred, hasn’t yet responded to a request for comment.