A Texas bill proposing to study the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics was approved by the state House committee on Monday by a vote of 10-0 with one abstention.
Bill 1802, which originally proposed to study psychedelics for treating a range of mental health issues, was approved with an amendment to study psilocybin, MDMA, and ketamine in the care of military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“Since 2001, more than 114,000 American veterans have died by suicide. That’s over 6,000 every year,” Rep. Alex Dominguez (D), the sponsor of the bill, told the House Public Health Committee on April 21. “Due to the lack of effective treatments in the United States, veterans are leaving the county to seek treatment abroad that is not available in America. Our veterans shouldn’t leave our country to find treatment,” he said.
If passed, the legislation will direct the Health and Human Services Commission, in collaboration with Baylor College of Medicine and the Veterans Affairs Medical Centre, to carry out the clinical study on the therapeutic efficacy of psilocybin therapy in the treatment of PTSD in veterans.
The Health and Human Services Commission will be conducting a scientific review to evaluate the therapeutic efficacy of other psychedelics and ensure access by veterans in the U.S., and will submit quarterly reports with new findings. A full report will be submitted by December 2024. The bill was previously dated for review by the end of December 2022.
The Texas House of Representatives also approved a bill to downgrade penalties on possession of marijuana on Tuesday. The bill was approved on its second reading in the House, with a final vote from the State Senate expected on Wednesday. With this piece of legislation, possession of up to two ounces of cannabis concentrates would be treated as a class B misdemeanour.
“Thousands are about to come home this year. The Biden administration said they’re putting an end to the conflict… and we don’t have the tools,” Dominguez told the committee members. “We can’t wait anymore if we keep losing veterans at the rate of 20 per day to suicide,” he said of bill 1802.
Earlier this month during a press conference at the state capitol in Austin, Rick Perry, the former Republican Governor of Texas, extended his support to the bill in a push for solutions to post-traumatic stress in veterans. He said, “I hope all [the legislators] will see the power of this legislation, and understand the power that being in the Texas legislature can have relative to an individual’s life.”
A similar request was put forward in March by three veterans service organizations (VSOs). They submitted written testimony to a joint hearing before the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees, asking that access to medical psychedelic and cannabis treatment be included in the Veteran’s Health Administration’s psychopharmacological repertoire.
“We would urge the Committees to support and remove existing governmental impediments to cannabis and psychedelic research and therapies within the Department and throughout the United States generally,” the group wrote to the federal government.
At least ten U.S. states — including California, Florida, Vermont, Connecticut, Washington State, New York, and Massachusetts— have in some way acted in the ongoing drug policy reform movement since the November elections. Oregon set a groundbreaking precedent when its voters made the historic decision to legalize psychedelic-assisted therapy and decriminalize possession of all drugs in the state.
Ritika is a Toronto-based reporter. She writes about drug policies and developments in psychedelics.