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Bill to legalize psilocybin for therapeutic use introduced in Washington

SB 5660 would allow the use of psilocybin for therapeutic purposes.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — One in five people in Washington suffer from some sort of mental health issue. For a lot of them, pills and therapy just don't work.

Now, there appears to be new hope in the form of a simple mushroom.

"It sounds kind of 'magical,' but the research is pretty positive," said State Sen. Jesse Salomon.

Salomon has introduced Senate Bill 5660, which would legalize the therapeutic use of magic mushrooms to treat Washington's epidemic of behavioral health problems.

"It's pretty amazing and hard to believe the long-term success for addiction recovery, depression and anxiety that we're seeing," said Salomon, a Shoreline Democrat.

Psychedelic drugs break down barriers in the brain, allowing parts of the brain that don't typically communicate with each other to do so. That makes it easier for people to find new ways of learning, understanding and breaking bad habits.

RELATED: This Mountlake Terrace clinic is treating some patients with Ketamine

The psychedelic ketamine has long been legal for therapeutic use in Washington treating everything from PTSD and depression to anxiety and addiction.

SB 5660 is modeled after an Oregon law that passed in 2020. It is entering the second year of a two-year phase-in. Washington's law would differ in that you wouldn't have to be a doctor or licensed counselor to prescribe psilocybin.

"Native, Indigenous societies have been doing this for thousands of years," said Salomon. "We have to give them a way for their traditional shamans and practitioners to do this. We don't want the barrier to be too high because asking someone to be a traditional healer and a Ph.D. is asking a lot of anyone."

University of Washington researchers are starting clinical studies on psilocybin and depression in health care workers.

Under the proposed law, users wouldn't have to be diagnosed with any disorder to take the drug.

"Some people want to use it for their own self-exploration and betterment without having a diagnosis," Salomon said. "Who am I to say they shouldn't do that?" 

The Washington State Department of Health would regulate the program and anyone providing treatment would have to be certified and complete 40 to 80 hours of training.

The bill is expected to get a hearing in the legislature's health care committee over the next couple of weeks.

RELATED: Seattle City Council votes in favor of decriminalizing psychedelic drugs