While the past several years have seen a slow—yet still promising—pace of cannabis reform across state legislatures, it’s been a much different story so far in 2023. Since the start of this year, lawmakers across the country have introduced more drug policy bills touching on various issues, from psilocybin decriminalization and medical marijuana expansion to mandating programs to help offenders reintegrate into society after incarceration.
There’s plenty of room for optimism from advocates in 2023, as the first two months of this year have given us a glimpse into what lies ahead for drug law reform at the state level.
Cities and States Across The US Begin To Champion Decriminalization And Psychedelics Reforms
More than a dozen states are expected to consider new marijuana legalization proposals this legislative session, but several other drug reform laws have also started moving forward. Lawmakers across the country filed bills this week to protect patients, reclassify and decriminalize a number of substances and enact new policy changes designed to create safe spaces for drug users to consume.
Want to know what’s going on in the world of drug policy reform? Here are a few of the newest bills that have been introduced to reform drug laws and procedures:
Bills to reform psychedelics, drug decriminalization, and safe consumption sites are being filed nationwide. In Colorado, a bill has been proposed to allow cities to establish overdose prevention centers where people could use currently illicit drugs in a medically supervised environment.
The burgeoning reform movement, led by an older generation of elected officials and public health experts, continues to engage with the cannabis community and tackle new legislation that addresses problems facing today’s cannabis users.
In the state of Connecticut, House Judiciary Committee members are currently considering whether to pass a bill that would decriminalize the possession of psychedelic mushrooms. If passed, it would make psilocybin mushrooms legal to possess in small quantities.
Sen. Rachel Ventura’s (D) bill would require the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation to authorize the distribution of psilocybin for medical, psychological, and scientific purposes—for example, in studies or research on its effects when used therapeutically.
The bill, as indicated in the summary, would create a commission to study the safety and efficacy of psilocybin and other drugs with similar effects on humans in treating mental health disorders. Researchers would investigate the safety and effectiveness of psilocybin, LSD, and other psychoactive drugs in treating conditions like addiction and depression.
State legislators Sheila Ruth and David Moon have filed legislation that would make possessing small amounts of drugs a civil infraction instead of a criminal misdemeanor. They have introduced a bill that would decriminalize low-level drug possession by making it a civil offense, not a criminal one.
People under 21 who are found in possession of small amounts of illicit substances may be referred to a drug education program or assessed for treatment by the state health department. A court that orders someone to complete a drug education program or substance use assessment or treatment may hold their case sub curia—meaning under review and temporarily suspended until proof of completion is submitted.
Recently, New York lawmakers filed bills that would decriminalize possession of drugs for personal use and legalize the therapeutic use of psilocybin—the active ingredient in hallucinogenic mushrooms.
Assemblymember Demond Meeks’ (D) decriminalization bill would eliminate criminal and civil penalties for drug possession while creating a task force to study other possible reforms. The bill lists several reasons to justify decriminalizing drugs: people who use them often suffer from disrupted lives, poverty, and disease.
The likelihood of psychedelics reform spreading to more states will depend largely on political factors—and there’s no way to accurately predict the next crop of bills’ fate. But the success of a few key measures in previous years and the positive public perception those laws received offer a ray of hope for supporters.
While it’s important to stay up-to-date with the latest laws and bills for reform, the best way to advocate for a policy change is to educate yourself about the issues at hand and be willing to share this knowledge with others.
The country will likely see a significant expansion in policies designed to treat all drugs as a public health issue rather than something that should be dealt with through the criminal justice system.
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