A pair of Democratic state senators in Nevada introduced a bill last week to allow for research into psilocybin, or psychedelic mushrooms, as well as MDMA, drawing inspiration from states like Oregon and Colorado where such substances have been legalized.

The proposal, per the measure’s official legislative summary, would establish “procedures for a research facility to obtain the approval of the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct certain studies involving certain controlled substances; decriminalizing certain conduct by persons who are 18 years of age or older involving psilocybin and MDMA if conducted in connection with and within the scope of an approved study; decriminalizing certain conduct by persons who are 18 years of age or older involving 4 ounces or less of fungi that produces psilocybin or psilocin; and providing other matters properly relating thereto.”

In more plain English, per the Las Vegas Sun, it would “decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms and MDMA for the purpose of studying their effects on an array of behavioral health disorders” and “allow the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services to begin accepting applications from research institutions to use the drugs to treat conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and addiction.”

The bill was introduced by Democratic state Sens. Rochelle Nguyen and Fabian Donate, both of whom represent Las Vegas. 

The bill also has two co-sponsors in the state House of Representatives: Max Carter and Elaine Marzola, also both Democrats. 

Las Vegas Weekly reported last fall that Nguyen had “filed a draft request for the 2023 Legislative Session for a bill that ‘revises provisions governing controlled substances’ and deals with matters of decriminalization, regulation and research on psychedelics,” and she said at the time “that it could potentially help with the growing mental health crisis.”

Psychedelics like mushrooms and MDMA have emerged as a new focal point for drug reform advocates, with scientists and medical professionals increasingly drawn to their potential therapeutic benefits. 

Las Vegas Weekly reported that Nguyen specifically highlighted the example of Oregon, which legalized psilocybin in 2020. 

Late last year, the Oregon Health Authority finalized rules for the new psilocybin law, with special consideration for access, affordability, and public safety.

“The final rules on duration of administrative sessions have been revised to create a new tier for subperceptual doses. These doses are defined as products containing less than 2.5 mg of psilocybin analyte. After a client’s initial session, the minimum duration for a subperceptual dose of 2.5 mg of psilocybin analyte or less is 30 minutes,” the Oregon Health Authority said at the time.

Last year, voters in Colorado approved a measure legalizing psilocybin. 

That might have sparked a trend in the mountain west region. In addition to last week’s proposal in Nevada, activists in Utah have likewise mounted an effort to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for medical purposes. 

Luz Escamilla, the Democratic leader in the Utah state senate, introduced a bill last month that would allow individuals aged 21 and older with qualifying conditions such as depression or anxiety access to a psilocybin-assisted treatment directly from a psilocybin therapy provider. 

“Cannabis has given us a really good opportunity to understand that we can use other natural things … to help us. Now, we have to be careful, and I think we have really good safeguards,” Escamilla said.

“This is not a free-for-all,” Escamilla added. “This is not for everyone, but if it’s for someone that is desperate (for help) with their anxiety, depression and PTSD—that’s pushing many, unfortunately, to suicide, I want them to have access in a way that’s safe, that we can regulate.”

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