Indiana Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy Bill Sent to Governor

Last week, a psilocybin research bill in Indiana was sent to the desk of Gov. Eric Holcomb. The bill was recently passed in the Senate in February (Senate Bill 139), followed by the House Public Health Committee shortly afterwards.

Following the end of the 2024 legislative session on March 8, bill sponsor Sen. Ed Charbonneau published a press release about his pride in working toward passing three different bills. The first would help make child care more affordable for Indianans, and the second included an expansion to health plans to include coverage for searching biomarkers for diagnosis or condition treatment. 

However, the third bill includes a mention of SB-139. “Another bill I worked on this session was Senate Bill 139, which would have established a fund to aid Indiana research institutions in studying the potential use of psilocybin in treating mental health and other medical conditions, especially in veterans and first responders,” Charbonneau wrote. “While SB 139 did not make it through the legislative process, the language was added to House Enrolled Act 1259, which would also expand the number of people eligible to provide health care services.”

Now the bill is being sent to the desk of Gov. Holcomb for final review. If SB-139 became law, it would create a therapeutic psilocybin research fund that would be managed by the Indiana Department of Health. The fund would provide financial assistance to research institutions to study psilocybin as a method of treating mental health or other conditions. The bill currently states conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, chronic pain, migraines, alcohol use disorder, and tobacco use disorder.

Additionally, it works to compare “the efficacy of psilocybin as a treatment for mental health and other medical conditions…with the efficacy of other current treatment options for mental health and other medical conditions.”

One requirement of institutions that apply to research psilocybin would include the use of veterans or first responders in their study as they “Evaluate and determine whether psilocybin is an effective treatment for mental health and other medical conditions.” After the study is concluded, the researchers would then submit a report of their findings to the Interim Study Committee on Public Health, the Indiana Behavioral Health Commission, and Human Services, as well as “state department and division of mental health and addiction.”

If passed, these processes to organize applications would begin starting on July 1, 2024.

Last year in November, the Interim Study Committee on Public Health, Behavioral Health and Human Services held its last meeting and issued a report recommending that legislators consider developing a psilocybin pilot program in 2024 “that strikes a balance between access, research, and prudence.”

At the meeting, Charbonneau explained that he’s already spoken with educational institutions that are interested in studying psilocybin. “I have had discussions with both [Indiana University] Health and with Purdue University,” said Charbonneau. “I spoke to 150 pharmacy students at Purdue, and afterward had a chance to speak with the dean of the pharmacy program…and he texted Dr. Jerome Adams, who’s now at Purdue University.” Adams previously served as U.S. surgeon general under former President Donald Trump.

The report made a distinction between medical cannabis and psilocybin, and described psilocybin-assisted therapy as more beneficial. “Many people conflate increased access to psilocybin assisted therapy with the issue of increased access to medical and recreational cannabis,” the report said. “However, the committee hearing made it clear that the evidence for psilocybin assisted therapy is promising and significantly more robust and the two issues are unrelated.”

Indiana’s neighboring states of Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio all have some form of cannabis legalization now. The only remaining state is Kentucky to the south, which currently has legalized medical cannabis but won’t officially launch until 2025.

However, Sen. J.D. Ford told WFYI Indianapolis in January that the lack of progress is due to legislators refusing to discuss legalization. “You’ve got the elected officials who are unwilling to have the conversation and you’ve got some of these other powerful lobbying groups that are continuing to block conversation, block bills from getting a committee hearing,” Ford said.

In a press event in January, Senate Pro Tempore Rodric Bray shut down inquiries from reporters regarding cannabis decriminalization or legalization. “Are we going to legalize cannabis this session? That’s not going to be the case,” Bray said

Previously in 2019, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb has previously stated that he will not take action on any cannabis legalization bills until it has been legalized on the federal level. “If the law changed, we would look at all the positive or adverse impacts it would have,” Holcomb said. “I’m not convinced other states have made a wise decision.”

In 2023, he did admit that decriminalizing cannabis in small amounts makes sense. “I do not believe that simple possession at certain limits should derail someone’s life,” Holcomb said.

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