JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Its supporters said psilocybin is proven to help veterans overcome post traumatic stress disorder syndrome.
Opponents argue the chemical found in some toadstools is a hallucinogen that remains illegal by federal standards.
The Missouri House's Health and Mental Health Policy Committee on Monday heard testimony for a bill that would decriminalize small amounts of the product.
Rep. Tony Lovasco, R-O'Fallon, sponsor for House Bill 2850, testified the bill not only decriminalizes the substance, but lays out a framework in which the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services can set conditions for legalization.
Lovasco argued Oregon and Oklahoma have already cleared the way for use of psilocybin and "other natural medicines."
The bill provides natural medicines, defined as dimethyltryptamine, ibogaine, mescaline and other than lophophore williamsii (peyote), psilocybin, if derived from a plant or fungus, may be given to or acquired by caregivers and eligible patients. Eligible patients are defined as persons who have been diagnosed with treatment- resistant post-traumatic stress disorder or depression, terminal illness, or another serious condition that has not responded positively or significantly to treatment and is approved by the Department of Health and Senior Services. A person may petition the department to add a condition to the list of conditions qualifying a person as an eligible patient.
The bill, Lovasco said, provides "carve-outs" so insurance companies aren't required to cover use of the product, but may do so.
The use or administration of natural medicine may only occur at a facility or office that provides health-related service, a facility providing hospice care, a residential care facility, or the residence of the eligible patient or the eligible patient's primary caregiver.
A physician shall not be subject to criminal or civil liability or sanction under law for recommending natural medicine to an eligible patient, and no state agency or regulatory board shall revoke, fail to renew, or take any other action against a physician's license based solely on the physician's recommendation to an eligible patient regarding treatment with natural medicine.
No health care insurer or the Department of Corrections shall be required to provide coverage for the costs of natural medicine.
This bill removes the unlawful possession of natural medicine as a felony offense and provides that the unlawful possession of more than four grams of natural medicine by weight is a Class A misdemeanor and four grams or less is a Class D misdemeanor.
Rep. Brian Seitz, R- Branson, argued the state doesn't want to be putting people on new drugs.
"This bill is more than interesting. I've heard of mescaline," Seitz said. "I Googled it. It's a hallucinogenic comparable to LSD. I've heard of peyote. We don't need all those negative things happening to people. You call them medicines; I call them drugs."
Lovasco corrected Seitz. He pointed out the bill actually excludes peyote from those hallucinogens that may be used for treatment of PTSD.
Lovasco said the products are not LSD. He added one of the motivations behind the bill is the products are far less dependence-creating than over-the-counter drug treatments.
"These are products that are only naturally occurring," he said.
Rep. Lisa Thomas, R-Lake Ozark, said there hasn't been enough research into the safety of the products.
Major universities, including Johns Hopkins, New York University and Washington University in St. Louis, are already conducting studies of the products, he responded.
"There's a high potential for abuse," Thomas said. "Until the (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) makes a change in that, I don't know why we're even having these discussions."
You have to start somewhere, Lovasco said.
He said he was unaware of any indication that the products are addictive.
HB 2850: Natural medicines
Sponsor: Rep. Tony Lovasco