• February 27, 2021

Iowa GOP Lawmaker Continues His Push To Decriminalize Psilocybin Mushrooms

 Iowa GOP Lawmaker Continues His Push To Decriminalize Psilocybin Mushrooms

by Sitraka Rakotoarivelo

A Republican lawmaker in Iowa is trying again to reform the state’s psychedelics laws by introducing a bill this week that would remove psilocybin from the list of controlled substances.

Rep. Jeff Shipley first filed a bill to get the policy change enacted in 2019, and pursued the idea again last year as an amendment to a spending bill. The standalone legislation died in committee and the amendment was soundly defeated on the floor, in part because some members wondered why it was included as part of a budget process.

The representative also filed legislation in 2019 that would have legalized psilocybin, MDMA and ibogaine in Iowa for therapeutic purposes. That also did not advance.

While Shipley has plans to continue to put forward additional, broader psychedelics reform measures this session, this first bill has a more narrow scope. The text simply states that it “removes psilocybin and psilocyn from the list of substances classified as Schedule I controlled substances under Iowa’s uniform Controlled Substances Act.”

The bill has been referred to the House Public Safety Committee for consideration.

“I wish I had more time to devote to the psychedelic sciences,” Shipley says, adding that he is readying a “right to try” bill that could theoretically free up access to experimental therapeutics like psilocybin for certain patients.

He calls “right to try the most conservative approach to usher in the new age of mental and emotional healthcare,” though it’s “still a topic many members of the public are unfamiliar with.”

President Donald Trump signed a federal “Right to Try Act” in 2018, allowing certain patients to access drugs that have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for broad use.

The Iowa representative said he expects Democratic lawmakers to “repeat their baseless attacks against these proposals,” but that he’s “optimistic for productive conversations this legislative session.”

Asked about the nature of Democratic “attacks” on psychedelics reform, Shipley pointed to a 2019 Iowa Statehouse Progressive Network legislative update that characterized his earlier decriminalization proposal as a bill to “legalize the date rape drug and other hallucinogenic drugs like LSD.”

The text of the legislation did not reference GHB, which is sometimes referred to pejoratively as a “date rape drug,” nor did it provide for the legalization of LSD. It would have removed psilocybin, MDMA and ibogaine from the state’s list of Schedule I controlled substances.

Even so, while Shipley expects push back from some Democratic legislators, it remains the case that the Iowa legislature that has declined to act on his previous proposals is controlled by Republicans who have historically avoided embracing drug policy reform. And it remains to be seen whether they will be moved to advance his psychedelics bills this session.

Some Democratic lawmakers in Iowa might not have joined Shipley in his push for psilocybin decriminalization so far, but a large coalition of local and state legislators in the party recently stepped up their call for marijuana legalization and expunging past cannabis convictions. It’s a policy that sets them apart from the legislature’s current GOP leadership, which has not endorsed the reform.

The Iowa Democratic Party also adopted a platform plank supporting “legalizing all drugs” in 2016 as a “divestment strategy in the drug war,” as one delegate described it. But by 2018, that language was toned down, with the party instead aligning with policies to simply remove the criminalization of drug use and vacate the records of individuals with non-violent drug convictions.

Shipley may be right that his pending “right to try” legislation isn’t a policy subject that’s widely understood, but when it comes to decriminalizing psychedelics like psilocybin, public awareness about the issue has increased significantly over the last couple years as cities and states have pursued reform since Denver’s historic 2019 vote to decriminalize psilocybin — which inspired activists in more than 100 cities to seek similar policy changes in the years since.

This piece is a part of a content sharing arrangement between The News Station and Marijuana Moment.

Kyle Jaeger

Associate editor at Marijuana Moment

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