Although Florida has a history of being slow on the draw when it comes to legalizing drug use (see: the failed effort to legalize recreational marijuana), a Florida lawmaker is hoping the state will take the leap into psychedelics and legalize medical mushrooms as early as 2022.
A recent bill introduced by Florida House Rep. Michael Grieco aims to legalize the use of psilocybin, a hallucinogenic substance found in certain types of so-called magic mushrooms, to treat mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety.
The Florida Psilocybin Mental Health Care Act would create state-sponsored clinics where patients suffering from mental-health disorders could be administered microdoses of psilocybin by a licensed medical professional. The patient would go through the experience, or "trip," with the professional present and then be offered a post-trip counseling session.
Grieco tells New Times his bill is a patchwork culled from of proposals from other states, particularly a recent Oregon bill that legalized medical psilocybin. He hopes the level of detail in his 59-page proposal will make legislators take the drug seriously as a medical treatment.
"When people think of 'magic mushrooms,' they think of listening to Pink Floyd and tie-dye T-shirts, but we should take this seriously," Grieco says. "We have veterans and Floridians who have deep depression and post-traumatic stress disorder who are resistant to other medications."
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has designated psilocybin treatment as a breakthrough therapy for major depressive disorder, putting its imprimatur on preliminary clinical evidence indicating that mushrooms may be more effective than existing means of treatment.
A number of cities have decriminalized the use of psychedelics, an alternative step to legalization that prevents a jurisdiction from prosecuting people for possession of the drugs. In 2019, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez filed legislation to make it easier for scientists to study psychedelics such as mushrooms. Although Ocasio-Cortez's legislation ultimately failed, she signaled that she would introduce new legislation pushing for more psychedelic research.
Dr. Jeffrey Kamlet, a Miami Beach addiction specialist and advocate for the ethical use of psychedelic medicine, lauds the use of psilocybin for the treatment of refractory depression, or depression that's resistant to treatment by therapy or traditional antidepressant drugs.
Kamlet says substances such as psilocybin are thought to promote neuroplasticity in the brain, which would allow the brain to heal itself in the event of damage from physical or psychological trauma. While he believes research still needs to be done in the U.S., he says he has successfully treated patients with severe depression using psilocybin in countries where it is legal.
If Grieco's bill passes as written, there would be a trial year during which only the state would have the right to administer psilocybin treatment. After that, the Florida Department of Health could issue licenses for private practitioners to prescribe the psychedelic.
The bill would also create a "Psilocybin Advisory Board" of governor-appointed experts to study the results of the drug treatment and provide recommendations to the Department of Health.
The bill would not allow people under 21 to buy or be prescribed psilocybin, and patients could only take the drug at a treatment center while under supervision.
"The goal is not to make this recreationally available from day one — this is about treatment. It's a controlled trip, and you are counseled before, during, and after," Grieco says.
Grieco filed the bill on January 28; as of now, it has yet to receive an assignment to a House committee for discussion.
Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.