Psychedelics Law Being Prepped for Florida

The goal is to get Republican support of future psychedelic laws in Florida.

While Florida digs out of the extensive damage caused by Hurricane Ian, the business of lawmaking and regulation for the medical psychedelics industry continues, with the hope of quickening access to psychedelics for the large veteran population in the state and for others needing access to legalized mental health treatment in the state.

Stepping up to help with the next iteration of a draft bill to help get psychedelics use approved in the state is Dustin Robinson, the co-founder of Mr. Psychedelic Law, a non-profit repository of lawyers and medical, scientific, and spiritual experts, working toward driving responsible legal reform in Florida for psychedelic medicines. 

Legislation Proposed

Robinson worked with Florida State Representative Michael Grieco (D-Miami/Dade) in part to design the first draft of the state psilocybin bill, after Grieco introduced a similar bill in January, 2021—HB549—that died in the Professions and Public Health Subcommittee on Friday, April 30, 2021. 

Robinson is partnering with lawyer Courtney Barnes, who has extensive policy work in psychedelics policy reform. Barnes works as counsel for Feldman Legal Advisors; general counsel for the Society for Psychedelic Outreach Reform and Education (SPORE); an advisory board member for Heroic Hearts Project Inc.; and policy advisor for Decriminalize Nature.

The Robinson/Barnes team plans to work with a representative or senator to file their bill in Florida’s next legislative session, scheduled to begin March 7, 2023.

Barnes has worked in both cannabis and psychedelics initiatives and bills over the last six years, including The Neighborhood Approved Cannabis Consumption Pilot Program Initiative (I-300) in 2016; the drafting of Denver’s Psilocybin Decriminalization Initiative (I-301) in 2018; the drafting of Texas House Bill 1325, establishing a state commercial hemp program in 2019; the drafting of the Oakland Community Healing Initiative, a local ordinance designed to regulate and protect facilitators and participants engaging in community-based healing ceremonies involving the use of entheogens in 2020; the drafting of California Senate Bill 519 and Michigan Senate Bill 631. Both of those bills would decriminalize the possession and non-commercial use of psychedelics.

“Cannabis and psychedelics are starting from the same place when it comes to the regulatory standpoint,” Barnes told Psychedealia. “Indications such as potential therapeutic potential are so vastly different, it’s really unfair to even classify psychedelics as one pathway forward in themselves, because psilocybin and Ibogaine have a completely different use, potential safety profiles, administration methods, etc. So, at the base of things, it’s about compounds that have huge therapeutic potential that is unjustly regulated as Schedule 1 drugs. But they are drastically different in all of the ways that we could see them integrating into society.”

Robinson said that what’s leading the charge on the psychedelic side is extremely strong research on the mental and behavioral health benefits of psychedelics. “So a lot of new legislation that we’re drafting is kind of focused on the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics.”

The approach Robinson wants to take on the Florida bill he and Barnes are crafting is to look at partnering with more Florida state representatives on the Republican side. “At the end of the day, with the bill that we’re proposing, I think both parties should get on board with it,” he said. “It’s supporting veterans with PTSD and other people that are suffering from various mental health indications. We think that both sides of the aisle should get behind this. We recognize, especially in a red state like Florida, that we really need to get the Republican side on board.”

He said that they are already in conversations with various senators and representatives that are interested in potentially sponsoring the bill. “Right now, we’re just trying to be very strategic on who we work with.”

The bill that he and Barnes are working on is focused on the research side. “We are not putting together a bill that is like medical cannabis bill,” Robinson said. “Medical cannabis has a legal framework by the state, but it’s still federally illegal. What we’re trying to put together is a bill that actually just acknowledges what’s going on at a federal level with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and potentially the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) rescheduling some of these compounds once they’re approved by the FDA. The bill we’re focused on can’t be compared with the medical cannabis framework, because what we’re doing is actually trying to be consistent with federal law, whereas the medical cannabis framework is inconsistent with federal law.”

Both are watching the development of the first legalized psilocybin program in Oregon with Oregon’s Measure 109 Initiative. “That’s a social experiment,” Robinson said. “A lot of people don’t realize is actually not medical, so there are no qualifying conditions. Anyone could access it, essentially, as long as they don’t meet the limited exclusion. And there are not too many things we can necessarily learn from it. But I do think as they’re going through the rulemaking process, we’re kind of seeing some issues pop up that maybe weren’t considered during the drafting of Measure 109, such as micro-dosing and limiting it to a certain strain of psilocybin (psilocybe cubensis).”

Barnes added that it’s easy to criticize and judge any type of policy such as Oregon’s, which acts as “a first mover,” and agrees there are things to learn from Oregon, such as schools to teach people how to be facilitators needing to be accredited by a licensing board, but one that has no experience whatsoever with psilocybin. “So I would perhaps would do something differently. But I’m very excited to see how Oregon is able to help people, and I think we should all give them a little bit of slack in pioneering the access model.”

The first draft of the bill that is out there now is the first iteration of what we’d like to see for the state of Florida, Barnes said. “It is simple. It is really just intended to prepare Florida for quick implementation once psilocybin and MDMA and other psychedelic compounds are FDA approved.”

The bill is intended to create a timeline for the state’s attorney general to engage in scheduling reform and analysis of an FDA-approved psychedelic. “You don’t want to give full absolute power to the federal government when it comes to scheduling actions, especially working in the decriminalization and policy reform movement,” Barnes said. “We want states to retain as much control over scheduling controlled substances and regulation of controlled substances as they are able to. What our vision and goal for Florida are to have a mechanism that creates an efficient and quick timeline for the state to come in alignment with what seems to be most appropriate with federal scheduling.”

Robinson said that they have a lot of support in the state. “Florida has a huge veteran population suffering from PTSD,” he said. “Republicans are always champions for veterans. So what we’re essentially saying to Florida is if these compounds like MDMA for PTSD that go through these rigorous FDA clinical trials, and the FDA approves, and that research objectively determines that it’s safe and effective for people with PTSD, we’re just trying to put a mechanism in Florida law that ensures that these veterans and others suffering with PTSD will have access to those medicines as soon as possible.

“All we’re saying is, look, if it’s good enough for the FDA, and it’s good enough for the DEA, Florida should act quickly in looking at it and ensuring that all citizens of Florida have access.”

Dave Hodes

David Hodes is a business journalist based in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. He has contributed feature articles to several cannabis and psychedelics publications, as well as general business/lifestyle publications, on a variety of topics. Hodes was selected as 2018 Journalist of the Year by Americans for Safe Access. He is a member of the National Press Club, and the deputy booking agent for the National Press Club Headliners Committee.

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