This Election Day, Oregon passed two of the most progressive drug reform measures in US history, legalizing psilocybin-assisted therapy and decriminalizing possession of all drugs. Now, activists in neighboring Washington state are hoping to follow their lead.
Washington was one of many states that hoped to include major drug reform initiatives on its 2020 election ballot, but activists were forced to suspend their signature-gathering efforts during the coronavirus lockdown. The next midterm election is two years away, but activists are already implementing plans to draft drug reform measures for the upcoming ballot.
David Bronner, CEO of Dr. Bronner's natural soap company and a major supporter of US drug reform initiatives, told the Daily Beast that he plans to help bring psilocybin-assisted therapy to Washington in 2022. In the 2020 election, Bronner donated nearly $5 million to help Oregon's successful psilocybin therapy and drug decriminalization campaigns. The company also donated $1.4 million to support adult-use legalization in Montana and South Dakota, and another $650,000 to help Washington DC's psychedelics decriminalization measure.
Next year, Bronner hopes to package legal psilocybin therapy and drug decriminalization into one single initiative on Washington state’s next ballot. Rolling these two measures into one may seem like an aggressive strategy, but Bronner told the Daily Beast that drug reform campaigns have been “moving faster than I would have thought... I would not have thought we’d be ready for the kind of reforms we’re seeing, and it’s gratifying. I just think we can go further in 2022 and 2024.”
Even if Bronner's all-in-one drug reform amendment fails to materialize, other groups are already working to draft individual initiatives. Treatment First Washington is advocating for a new bill that would remove all criminal penalties for drug possession and expand drug treatment services using cannabis tax revenue, much like Oregon's new drug decriminalization plan does. The group hopes that lawmakers will pass this bill next year, but if that avenue does not succeed, the measure could appear on the 2022 ballot.
Meanwhile, other advocates are working to convince government officials to legalize psilocybin-assisted therapy. Dr. Sunil Aggarwal and his Seattle clinic, the Advanced Integrative Medical Science Institute, are seeking federal approval to cultivate psilocybin mushrooms and administer them to patients with terminal illnesses. This approval could be granted under the federal “Right to Try Act,” a 2018 law that allows specific patients to use drugs that have not been fully approved by the FDA.
Aggarwal has already applied to the Washington State Department of Health’s Pharmacy Quality Assurance Commission for a license to grow psilocybin mushrooms under the state's own “right to try” law. The doctor has yet to hear back from the state, but even if this application is approved, his clinic also needs to get approval from the DEA.
“We know that [psilocybin is] a naturally occurring substance that we can cultivate safely, we know how to dose it, and there’s really good reason to believe it can help,” Aggarwal told Marijuana Moment. The doctor said that he is currently consulting lawyers to help him draft his application to the DEA, but cautioned that “there’s really no way to know” when or if his applications could be answered. “This has never been tried before that we’re aware of.”