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Hawaii Senate Finally Approves Psilocybin Task Force
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The state has yet to approve a psychedelics decriminalization law, but this could be an important step forward.
Published on March 12, 2022

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The Hawaiian State Senate voted unanimously on Tuesday to establish a working group to study current psychedelics research and what the future of related treatments could look like in the state. Marijuana Moment broke the story, which locates Hawaii within a steadily-building movement to decriminalize psychedelics that has gained traction in places like Oregon, Oakland, and Denver.

“Studies conducted by nationally and internationally recognized medical institutions indicate that psilocybin and psilocin have shown efficacy, tolerability, and safety in the treatment of a variety of mental health conditions,” states the legislation. It goes on to cite research by the FDA that suggests psilocybin can be used in treating different kinds of depression. 

The working group bill, which was approved by two Senate commissions in February, will now go to Hawaii’s House of Representatives to be scheduled for a hearing.

The Senate’s approval of the bill comes at an opportune time, as a long-shot piece of psilocybin regulation is currently working its way through the legislative body. SB2575 would remove psilocybin and psilocyn from the state’s list of Schedule I substances, and would establish a network of state-run psychedelic treatment centers.

“That's our job as legislators and policymakers, to engage in that conversation [about the therapeutic value of psilocybin], to determine what is valuable, what's not valuable," state senator Stanley Chang, a psychedelics advocate who introduced the bill, told Yahoo Finance. "And, you know, that's an ongoing conversation that we need to have.”

Chang introduced a nearly-identical bill in the 2021 legislative session, but it failed to make it out of committee over concerns that the state was ill-equipped to establish treatment centers.

That could change if the working group whose establishment the Senate approved on Tuesday proves effective in its research efforts. The panel will be tasked with researching the current legal status of psilocybin, as well as scientific studies that have been conducted on its efficacy in treating mental health, and potential guidelines that the state can follow should it go forward in regulating its use by adults 21 years of age and older.

Individuals who will form part of the working group include the state’s director of health, its attorney general, psychiatrists, an advocate from the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii, a member of the psychedelics industry, an individual who has experience operating a medical cannabis dispensary, and others.

“Hawaii has a shortage of mental health professionals and should actively consider novel, innovative, and safe solutions to treat its citizens,” acknowledges the bill’s text.

The surge in mental health problems during the past years of the COVID-19 pandemic has left many Hawaiian health professionals feeling strained when it comes to helping all the individuals in need of their services. Could psilocybin provide assistance during this mental health crisis?

“At the policymaking level, we're finally catching up to a process that's been going on for years in the medical community,” said Chang. “And we're finally starting to understand that the research shows that there are significant benefits to this type of treatment and that, at the very least, we should be conducting a lot more of this research.”

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Caitlin Donohue
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Caitlin Donohue is a Bay Area-raised, Mexico City-based cannabis writer and author of She Represents: 44 Women Who Are Changing Politics and the World. Her weekly show Crónica on Radio Nopal explores Mexican marijuana culture and politics in the prohibition era. Follow Caitlin on IG @byrdwatch.
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