A bipartisan group of Wisconsin lawmakers has introduced legislation that would establish a pilot program to study psilocybin as a treatment for military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. The measure, known as LRB-4215, was filed earlier this month by state Senator Jesse James and Representative Nate Gustafson, both Republicans, and Democrats Senator Dianne Hesselbein and Representative Clinton Anderson.
“Wisconsinites, especially our veterans struggling with treatment-resistant PTSD, deserve the ‘Right to Try’ the best possible care and support,” Gustafson said in a statement cited by Marijuana Moment. “I am proud to work across the aisle to propose a bipartisan bill to create a medicinal psilocybin treatment pilot to fulfill our moral duty to our veterans, who have selflessly served our country.”
The bipartisan legislation would direct the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents to establish a pilot program to research psilocybin, the primary psychoactive compound in magic mushrooms, as a treatment for PTSD in veterans aged 21 and over. The bill would also require researchers to report to the governor and the state legislature on the program’s progress and findings.
Hesselbein said that providing better healthcare for Wisconsin’s veterans is an issue that can bring lawmakers together in the politically divided state.
“I think that’s one thing that we can all agree on in this Capitol,” Hesselbein told Wisconsin Examiner. “Veterans are important, and they deserve the best health care treatment they can get. And if this can help people with PTSD and have them be really great members of society and working and really helping them with their mental health, let’s give it a go. Let’s see if it can work.”
Studies conducted by Johns Hopkins and other researchers have shown that psilocybin has the potential to be an effective treatment for several serious mental health conditions, including PTSD, major depressive disorder, anxiety and substance misuse disorders. A study published in 2020 in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Psychiatry found that psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy was a quick-acting and effective treatment for a group of 24 participants with major depressive disorder. And separate research published in 2016 determined that psilocybin treatment produced substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer.
James said that federal law has not kept pace with the research into the potential medical benefits of psychedelics and other drugs.
“Our federal government has failed us when it comes to marijuana and the psilocybin and all these other variants that are out there in doing these studies,” James told Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR). “So, if states have to take it upon themselves to do it, then I guess that’s what we should be doing.”
The pilot program would be facilitated by the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the home of the Transdisciplinary Center for Research in Psychoactive Substances. The legislation appropriates $100,000 for initial research to the fund, which would also be permitted to accept charitable contributions to expand research opportunities.
“The mental health of our veterans is incredibly important. Increasing treatment opportunities for veterans with PTSD is something we should all agree on,” Anderson said in a statement. “I’m proud of this bipartisan bill to support those who served our country.
Anderson also said the bipartisan nature of the bill illustrates that the sponsors are “serious, and we’re not just throwing out a messaging bill.”
“Let’s try to find some alternatives to treatment for our veterans who serve our country,” Anderson told WPR. “And I think that’s something we should all be able to get behind. Otherwise, we’re just playing political theater when we talk about how important our veterans are.”