Alaska Psilocybin Task Force Legislation

Alaska Psilocybin Task Force Legislation

An Alaska legislator, Democratic State Senator Forrest Dunbar, has proposed a bill, Senate Bill 166, aimed at establishing a task force to explore the medicinal benefits of psychedelic substances like psilocybin and MDMA. Introduced earlier this month, the bill, if approved by the legislature and enacted by Governor Mike Dunleavy, would mandate the formation of a task force tasked with a one-year study on the potential medical applications of psychedelics in addressing the state’s mental health issues. This group would also look into the legal pathways for the use of these substances, as well as licensing, insurance requirements, and accessibility hurdles.

Dunbar highlighted the importance of creating a regulatory framework in Alaska that could permit medical professionals to utilize these drugs, which preliminary research suggests could have significant benefits for individuals struggling with trauma and addiction. The proposed task force would include representatives from communities with specific healthcare needs, such as Alaska Natives, military veterans, and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, emphasizing the inclusion of Alaska Natives and acknowledging the oversight in other states’ psychedelic policy discussions.

Senate Bill 166 comes in response to anticipations of changes in federal legislation concerning psychedelic drugs. Ongoing clinical trials and studies have indicated that these substances could offer therapeutic advantages for severe mental health issues like depression, PTSD, substance abuse disorders, and anxiety. Dunbar notes that while these treatments might not be universally effective, they could provide transformative outcomes for some individuals.

Research on psychedelics is showing promising results for mental health treatment. A 2020 study in JAMA Psychiatry revealed that psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy effectively and quickly treated major depressive disorder in a group of 24 participants. Another study from 2016 found significant, lasting reductions in depression and anxiety among patients with life-threatening cancer following psilocybin treatment.

In recognition of its potential, the FDA granted Breakthrough Therapy designation in 2017 for MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, signaling a notable advance over existing treatments. Recently, MAPS Public Benefit Corporation, now known as Lykos Therapeutics, submitted an FDA application for MDMA-assisted therapy, shortly before announcing a rebranding and securing $100 million to develop psychedelic therapies.

Senator Forrest Dunbar emphasized the importance of shaping psychedelics policy to facilitate access for those who could benefit, including considerations for insurance coverage and supporting indigenous communities and traditional healers.

Melissa Bradley, an Anchorage-based epidemiologist studying psychedelic medicines, highlighted the challenging nature of psychedelic therapy but noted the lasting mental health improvements reported by many patients. She pointed out that expanding access to psychedelic therapy beyond controlled environments could significantly increase availability. Bradley sees the exploration of psychedelics as delving into the mysteries of consciousness, which is both a research challenge and a policy frontier, likening it to the “Wild West” of regulations.

Dunbar’s legislative proposal, aiming to study the medical use of psychedelics, has been sent to the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee for review, with a companion bill introduced in the House by Representative Jennifer Armstrong. Although no hearings have been scheduled, Dunbar hopes for a session in early February. This legislative effort reflects a growing interest in the therapeutic potential of psychedelics and the need for policy frameworks to support their use.

Source: A.J. Herrington,