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Maine lawmakers consider legalized ‘magic’ mushrooms

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(The Center Square) — Maine lawmakers are weighing a controversial proposal to legalize psychedelic mushrooms for therapeutic use, but the move faces pushback from law enforcement groups.

A proposal being pending before the Legislature’s Committee On Veterans and Legal Affairs would make “magic mushrooms” legal for adults 21 and older and set up a system of sales and taxation.

One of the bill’s primary sponsors, state Sen. Donna Bailey, D-Saco, points out that the measure wouldn’t authorize retail over-the-counter sales of the drug and would require the state Department of Health and Human Services and an advisory board to develop “strict safety criteria” to “minimize risk and maximize benefit.”

“It would establish a safe, tightly regulated program to make psilocybin treatment services available for veterans, first responders, and others in need,” she said in written testimony. “Licensed and trained facilitators would administer the treatment.”

But the proposal, which was held over from the previous legislative session after failing to pass, is opposed by police officials who say Maine is still grappling with the legalization of medical and recreational cannabis and that authorizing personal use of another controlled substance would create law enforcement issues.

“We do not take any position on the clinical and therapeutic benefits of psilocybin but we do not think that there is enough information out there for the public to begin to safely consume it without guidance of a medical professional,” Charles Rumsey, president of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association, wrote in recent testimony opposing the measure.

Supporters frame the proposal as a way to help treat mental illness, citing recent studies showing promise with psilocybin as a therapeutic drug. They point to a growing body of evidence that psilocybin can have beneficial impacts on treating psychological disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder and end-of-life anxiety.

Psilocybin is currently illegal under federal law, classified as a Schedule 1 drug under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act along with LSD, heroin and other drugs, with no accepted medical uses.

But that hasn’t stopped at least two states from voting to decriminalize small amounts of psilocybin and authorize its use for therapy.

In January, Oregon became the first state to legalize psilocybin for regulated use in treating mental health issues. Voters approved legalizing the drug in 2020 as part of a ballot question that also decriminalized the personal possession of small amounts of harder drugs like heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine.

Unlike recreational cannabis, Oregon’s law doesn’t allow for the retail sale of psilocybin, and consumption must take place at licensed “service” centers.

In November, Colorado voters approved a law legalizing the drug in therapeutic settings and authorizing regulators to create rules for a new “psychedelics” industry.

It also decriminalizes the “personal use” of the substances, allowing adults 21 and older to possess and grow psychedelic mushrooms in their own homes.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized “breakthrough therapy” status for the psychedelic drug for the purposes of clinical trials being conducted by private research companies.

Recent studies, based on decades of research into the use of the drug, showed promise for treating symptoms of major depression, cancer and other ailments.

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