New York just passed a law that will automatically legalize MDMA, psilocybin, or any other Schedule I drug that becomes federally legal.
State Assemblymember Donna Lupardo (D) and Senator Gustavo Rivera (D) created this legislation to pave the way for the eventual legalization of psilocybin- and MDMA-assisted therapy. The new law will require the state health commissioner to reschedule or deschedule any Schedule I drug that the federal government reschedules or deschedules. Now that the law is in effect, any psychedelic therapy that is approved by the federal government will also become legal in New York.
The bill's sponsors focused their advocacy efforts on MDMA and psilocybin, two Schedule I drugs that may become federally legal in 2023. The FDA has granted Breakthrough Therapy status to both of these medicines, allowing researchers to fast-track clinical trials investigating their therapeutic use. These trials are now in their final phases, and insiders expect that the FDA will approve MDMA-assisted therapy as a treatment for PTSD this year.
But despite the focus on these two specific drugs, the bill technically applies to all Schedule I drugs, paving the way for the future legalization of LSD, DMT, or ayahuasca therapies. And although the law does not immediately legalize psychedelic therapy, it will remove delays that could arise between state and federal legalization. Additionally, the legislation would make it harder for a conservative health commissioner to block the state from accepting federally-approved psychedelics.
“Without the statutory authority to automatically classify or reclassify certain drug products, New Yorkers might experience a delay in accessing and benefitting from federally approved breakthrough therapies, such as MDMA-assisted therapies for post-traumatic stress disorder or psilocybin treatment for depression,” the bill's sponsors explained.
Lawmakers were able to accomplish this feat by simply changing one word in the state's existing public health law. The previous version of the law said that the state health commissioner “may” choose to reschedule any drug that is federally rescheduled. The new law changes “may” to “shall,” essentially forcing the state to exactly match federal rescheduling. Both chambers of the state legislature passed the bill unanimously, and Gov. Kathy Hochul signed it into law last month.
Many other states are gradually removing roadblocks that could impede the acceptance of psychedelic therapies. Last year, Connecticut passed a law that will legalize MDMA and psilocybin therapy centers, contingent on federal approval. This law goes a little further than New York's new law, though, as it also funds a pilot program that will help veterans, first responders, and healthcare workers enroll in psychedelic therapy programs.
Colorado also passed a law that will legalize MDMA prescriptions when they become federally legal. The state isn't waiting around for the feds to greenlight psychedelic therapy, though - voters completely legalized psilocybin mushrooms and decriminalized other natural psychedelics last year. Colorado and Oregon have also legalized healing centers where patients can legally receive psilocybin-assisted therapy.