DFL Rep. Andy Smith has been pleasantly surprised at how open-minded the conversation has been surrounding his proposal to explore legalizing psychedelic medicine in Minnesota. The bill even has two Republican co-sponsors.
Despite decades of stigma around psychedelics such as LSD, mescaline and psilocybin, a handful of states and municipalities across the United States are moving to decriminalize their use. In January, Oregon became the first state to legalize the adult use of psilocybin.
Smith's bill would create a task force to explore "the legal, medical, and policy issues" associated with legalizing psychedelic medicine.
Democrats such as Smith, a business owner from Rochester, have been critical of the war on drugs and the crackdown on marijuana and drugs such as psilocybin. Both are naturally occurring, and he points to studies that say psychedelics show promise in treating mental health conditions such as severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
"The pandemic affected our whole population — even if they didn't get sick — in our mental health," Smith said. "It's put a real pressure on us as lawmakers to make possible for these important medicines to be studied, and then to responsibly be given to those who might need them and benefit from them."
Some of the biggest backers of psychedelic medicine legalization across the country are veterans suffering from PTSD.
"The very first thing that I bring up in any conversation on this is that it has been used primarily for PTSD for veterans and police officers, and we've seen great treatment benefits from that," said Rep. Nolan West, a Republican from Blaine who is co-sponsoring the bill.
A recent article in the Journal of Neurological Sciences by three doctors at the Mayo Clinic notes that existing treatments for psychiatric disorders have had mixed results, which carry with them the possibility of significant side effects.
"Recent findings from human studies with psychedelics have shown promise, demonstrating rapid and sustained clinical benefits of these compounds for a variety of psychiatric disorders," the Mayo doctors write.
The long-term benefits of psychedelic medicine are still unclear. Given those questions, West said, a task force is a perfect way to explore the idea. Minnesota has top medical researchers who he hopes will be a part of the discussion.
"My hope is that the task force is loaded with people who approach the issue in a less partisan way," West said.
Smith also hopes his bill continues to stay above the partisan fray.
During a recent town hall meeting he held in Rochester, a woman held up a sign to demonstrate against Smith for supporting a recent law protecting abortion rights. But she approached him afterward to ask about the psychedelics bill, noting a family member was struggling with the trauma of serving in Vietnam.
Smith jotted some resources down for her on the back of her sign.