Local Politics

State Legislators Hold Public Hearing to Consider Legalizing Magic Mushrooms for Mental Health Disorders

Photo by The Shroomery

On Tuesday Maine lawmakers considered a bill to legalize “magic mushrooms.” Oregon made waves in November 2020 when its citizens voted to decriminalize the drug, known formally as psilocybin, as well as legalizing it for therapeutic use. Maine would follow, allowing the use of psilocybin for mental health disorders.

The bill, “Maine Psilocybin Services Act,” states that an adult aged at least 21 would need to purchase, consume, and feel the effects of the product under the supervision of a psilocybin service facilitator at a psilocybin service center.

The first public hearing for the bill was held over ZOOM and lasted 90 minutes. The hearing heard dozens of supporters of the bill, many of whom have experimented with psilocybin themselves for PTSD, controlling pain, anxiety, and depression. Doubts were also expressed from opponents of the bill, who are cautious regarding a lack of research weighing harms and benefits of the drug, and are awaiting further study from the Food and Drug Administration.

Uel Gardner, from Casco, shared a story of a friend who received relief from the drug through taking small enough doses to not experience mind-altering effects. This process is known as “micro-dosing.”

In the 1960s psilocybin use was rapidly rising in popularity, and had become a symbol in the counterculture movement in the US. Psilocybin was federally banned in the United States in 1968. At this point, research on the benefits of the drug ceased almost entirely until the late 1990s.

A study coming from researchers at NYU Grossman School of Medicine in 2016 found that a one-time, single dose treatment of psilocybin produced “immediate, substantial, and sustained improvements in anxiety and depression” in cancer patients. The study was published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, and even found the 60 to 80 percent participants experiencing less anxiety and depression 6.5 months later.

Psilocybin has also been found to be effective in treating addiction. Matthew W. Johnson, Ph.D.,  a professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University, notes the drug’s potential in treating smoking, alcohol, and cocaine addiction. Psilocybin was proven to be more effective than other anti-smoking drugs, with  80 percent of participants in his study quitting nicotine, and 18 months later 60 percent were still abstinent.

Psilocybin is illegal and a Schedule I drug under federal law. Denver became the first U.S. city to decriminalize the drug in May 2019, prohibiting Denver from spending any resources to prosecute adults for using or possessing, but not legalizing the drug. Eight other US cities have followed in their footsteps and decriminalized psilocybin.

Maine legislators will continue to discuss legalizing psilocybin. Currently the Maine Medical Association and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services oppose enacting the bill, citing the ongoing drug crisis and increasing number of overdose deaths in Maine.

Categories: Local Politics

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