Washington lawmakers considering a bill to legalize psilocybin for medical treatment

"Psilocybin cubensis mushroom" by Kristie's NaturesPortraits is licensed under CC BY 2.0

OLYMPIA, Wash — Known for decades as “magic mushrooms,” Washington lawmakers will consider legalizing the use of psilocybin to treat various illnesses like PTSD and depression.

Senate Bill 5660 mirrors a bill passed in Oregon in 2020 with some modifications.

The bill enables people 21 and older to be treated at licensed care centers under the supervision of licensed facilitators.

Despite any state legalization, psilocybin is still illegal under federal law.

An addiction psychologist and researcher from the University of Washington spoke in support of the bill in a committee hearing Wednesday. While his research is in the field of psychedelics and addiction, he said he was speaking before the committee as a private citizen.

“The evidence currently suggests that psilocybin, when given in a controlled environment, under the care of a provider, may significantly reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, trauma and a range of substance abuse disorders,” Nathan Sackett told the committee.

He said this bill could provide a pathway for certain patients to find a treatment that is currently only available to patients who are in clinical trials or are breaking the law to get it.

“I have seen the positive effects firsthand,” he said.

Sackett did support the bill with a caveat, however. He said researchers have not done studies beyond highly-controlled environments. He said he’d like to see more studies moving forward, while also providing this treatment legally.

Several military veterans and other citizens spoke in support of the bill.

Among them was Spokane resident Darren McCrea. He opened the first medical marijuana dispensary in Eastern Washington when that was made legal under state law.

McCrea says he has Parkinson’s Disease and that psilocybin is the only thing that helps with his tremors.

A woman from Tacoma said she suffered from depression for 20 years and traditional medicine never helped. She said a psilocybin treatment retreat in Jamaica saved her life.

In addition, a restaurant owner named Maria Hines spoke in support of the bill. She said she’s been treated with psilocybin and it succeeded where anti-depressants failed.

She said she’s in a better mental state than she ever has been.

One senator on the committee worried lawmakers were putting the “cart before the horse” and cited stories of people experiencing bad trips on psilocybin.

Sackett said moving this from the underground, illegal treatments into a legal, controlled setting would actually make it safer.

The bill was read Tuesday by the Senate Committee on Health and Long Term Care.

442 people signed in to the public hearing. 131 of those were against the bill.

You can watch the hearing at this link.