Monday, May 20, 2024

California Moves Closer to Legal Psychedelic Use: ‘These Therapies Have the Potential to Save Countless Lives’

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Pivotal developments in California’s legislation on psychedelic therapy, including Assemblymember Waldron’s bill and the transformative investment in Lykos Therapeutics, are reshaping the future of psychedelic-assisted treatment.

The California Assembly Health Committee has unanimously approved a bill aimed at creating a state workgroup under the California Health and Human Services Agency (CalHHS) to investigate a regulatory framework for providing therapeutic access to substances like psilocybin and ibogaine. The bill, authored by Assemblymember Marie Waldron (R), garnered an 11-0 vote and now proceeds to the Appropriations Committee before potentially reaching the floor.

Assemblymember Waldron, at the hearing, underscored the urgency of addressing mental health crises in California, saying, “California is experiencing a severe mental health crisis with rising rates of anxiety, depression, substance use, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicide and other debilitating conditions. My bill, AB 941, proposes a solution to this crisis through the exploration of the therapeutic possibilities of psychedelic-assisted therapy. We need the data, the research, and the recommendations of experts in this promising field of therapeutics.” She added, “These therapies have the potential to save countless lives.”

Waldron is working with Sen. Scott Wiener (D) on separate legislation to establish a broader therapeutic access model for psychedelics in California. Wiener, affirming his support for this incremental reform, revealed plans to introduce additional legislation to legalize and structure psychedelic-assisted therapy, aligning with the governor’s previous veto message on psychedelic decriminalization.

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Can psychedelics improve your mental health? | Photo courtesy Vinícius Müller

Wiener and Waldron’s collaboration highlights the evolving approach to psychedelics reform in California. Their efforts aim to address concerns raised by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) regarding the legalization of low-level possession of certain psychedelics. Waldron’s revised legislation, designed to be more limited, will act as a backup to their broader bipartisan measure, expected to be introduced soon.

Concurrently, the California Legislative Analyst’s Office recently reviewed a prospective ballot initiative to legalize psychedelics. This measure would permit adults to grow, possess, and use substances like psilocybin, LSD, MDMA, DMT, ibogaine, and mescaline, with physician recommendations required for purchases at regulated stores. Another proposal seeks to legalize psilocybin, including adult-use sales.

Local municipalities in California including Eureka, San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Cruz, and Arcata, are advancing reforms to decriminalize psychedelic plants and fungi. These cities have prioritized making enforcement of laws against personal use, cultivation, and possession a low priority for police.

In related news, MAPS Public Benefit Corp., a longstanding advocate for psychedelics use, will be renamed Lykos Therapeutics, marking a significant moment in the psychedelics industry. The for-profit affiliate of the nonprofit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies secured a $100 million investment led by Helena Special Investments.

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Psilocybin mushrooms Courtesy Mushroom Tao

The new funding, which includes conversion of previously issued convertible notes, will bolster research into MDMA for the potential treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. Helena Special Investments Managing Director Protik Basu, who will join Lykos’ board, commented on the importance of this funding round, stating, “This strong funding round, combined with the Phase 3 results and recent new drug application submission to the FDA, position Lykos to continue its journey.”

The investment round also saw participation from the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation and other investors, highlighting the growing interest in the nascent psychedelics industry. Despite challenges in gaining FDA approval for drugs like psilocybin, LSD, or MDMA, the industry continues to expand, with Lykos leading research efforts into MDMA-assisted therapy.

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