New Washington State Psilocybin Bill (SB 5263) for 2023
Psychedelic bill from Senator Jesse Salomon builds on successes and setbacks in Oregon and Colorado.
This year, State Senator Jesse Salomon is sponsoring an updated version of Washington’s Psilocybin Services Wellness and Opportunity Act (Senate Bill 5263). You can read the full bill at WashingtonPsilocybin.org. The previous version, SB 5660, was introduced during Washington’s 2022 legislative session.
This article provides a detailed preview of the updated bill. Like its predecessor, the 2023 version regulates supported adult use, which allows clients to access psilocybin without a medical diagnosis or prescription. It contains significant updates. Many are original. Others were gleaned from observing Oregon’s implementation of Measure 109 and Colorado’s approval of Proposition 122, while learning from their successes and potential missteps.
Extended Implementation Period
SB 5263 extends the previous version’s 18-month implementation period to 24 months. That’s six months longer than the Natural Medicine Health Act’s rulemaking phase but comparable in length to the rulemaking period for Oregon’s Measure 109.
Enhanced Protections for Employees and Professionals
In addition to shielding employees from being fired for utilizing psilocybin services, the updated bill protects healthcare providers from being disciplined or sanctioned for recommending psilocybin services or assisting clients in obtaining them.
Mandatory Group Administration Rules
SB 5263 requires Washington’s Department of Health to make rules for group administration sessions. Similarly, the Natural Medicine Health Act requires Colorado’s governing agency, the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA), to allow communal consumption. By comparison, Oregon’s Measure 109 gave the Oregon Health Authority discretion to prohibit group administration. However, in response to advisory board recommendations, and significant public input, the Health Authority created extensive rules for group settings. Codifying a requirement for group administration is a significant improvement because group sessions could make psilocybin services more affordable. In addition to reflecting how psychedelics are traditionally consumed, group sessions may have other benefits such as promoting a sense of community, reducing anxiety, and improving outcomes.
Flexible Administration Sites
Two limitations of Measure 109 are its rigid linkage of service centers to fixed facilities and a related prohibition on home administration sessions. Many people who may benefit from psychedelic services cannot travel to licensed service centers. More recent legislation like Colorado’s Natural Medicine Health Act has addressed this problem by defining service centers as entities rather than specific facilities, allowing administration sessions to occur in a wider variety of locations.
Like Colorado’s law, Washington’s SB 5263 allows psilocybin administration to occur outside a service center (at other locations permitted by the Department of Health). Though both Colorado’s law and SB 5263 leave these locations to be determined by state agencies, SB 5263 provides additional guidance. For instance, locations that the Department of Health may permit must include veterans’ organizations, houses of worship, private residences, outdoor spaces, and other locations to be determined by the agency. Neither Colorado’s law nor SB 5263 allows for consumption in public spaces, and SB 5263 adds an additional prohibition on holding administration sessions in vehicles such as RVs.
Expanded Facilitator Training Requirements and License Types
Regarding training for psilocybin facilitators, SB 5263 increases the hours of required hands-on training from 40 hours, the number required in Oregon, to 250 hours. Moreover, SB 5263 creates a new license type for facilitator trainees. Once candidates have completed the core training curriculum, which consists of 120 hours of classroom-type instruction (the same as Oregon), they can apply for a facilitator trainee license. This license qualifies them to complete 250 hours of clinical experience under a qualified supervisor, who must have two-years’ experience or meet other requirements defined by the Department of Health. At least 48 of the 250 practicum hours must include direct co-facilitation with the supervisor.
No Dosage Limit Below Fifty Milligrams
SB 5263 prohibits the Department of Health from implementing a maximum dose lower than 50 milligrams of psilocybin. By comparison, Measure 109 gave the Oregon Health Authority broad discretion to set dosage limit, and the agency chose 50 milligrams. SB 5263 sets a floor for Washington’s limit, while giving regulators discretion to raise it.
In Oregon, the Health Authority declined to provide dosage guidelines in grams of whole fungi, leaving some stakeholders confused. It remains somewhat unclear how service centers will handle the administration of mushrooms, the doses of which are typically reported in grams rather than milligrams.
No Local Opt-Out Provisions
Oregon’s Measure 109 allowed cities and counties to opt-out of the state’s regulated psilocybin program, and last November, many voted not to participate. In contrast, Colorado’s Natural Medicine Health Act requires uniform implementation of the law, and cities and counties can only set reasonable restrictions on the time, place, and manner in which psilocybin services are offered. SB 5263 follows Colorado’s example, eliminating the ability of cities and counties to opt-out and allowing only reasonable local regulations on psilocybin service centers and manufacturers.
Enhanced Client Data Protections
Maintaining client data privacy and confidentiality has become a controversial issue. Psychedelics remain federally illegal, and the information derived from psychedelic experiences is valuable and sensitive. If client data falls into the wrong hands, it could expose them to social, legal, and professional risks. For instance, clients could be discriminated against when they apply for employment, housing, and other benefits and services. To address this concern, Washington’s SB 5263 charges psilocybin facilitators with “maintaining the confidentiality of client information to the greatest extent possible.” Clients will also have the right to control their data and how it’s used, including whether it is shared with third parties outside a service center.
Expanded Social Opportunity Program
The previous version of SB 5263 included a social opportunity program to encourage participation of people from low-income regions of the state. Program participants will pay reduced license fees as determined by the Department of Health in consultation with Washington’s Psilocybin Advisory Board, which will be appointed by the Governor. Unlike Oregon’s program, where reducing fees for one group necessitates increasing them for others, any budget shortfall created by reducing fees for Washington’s Social Opportunity Program will be subsidized by the state. The refreshed version of Washington’s proposed bill also expands the social opportunity program to include veterans and persons who have a traditional or Indigenous history with psychedelics. The Department of Health has discretion to allow other communities to participate in the program.
Codified Client Bill of Rights
Last year, the Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board approved a client bill of rights that was largely adopted by the Oregon Health Authority. This bill of rights will be displayed prominently in service center locations and must be reviewed with their clients. SB 5263 codifies this bill of rights, ensuring universal rights for Washington psilocybin clients. Its text reads as follows:
CLIENT BILL OF RIGHTS
Clients receiving psilocybin services in Washington have the following rights:
(1) To be treated with dignity and respect while receiving psilocybin services.
(2) To receive culturally competent care.
(3) To be free from physical, sexual, psychological, and financial abuse before, during, and after receiving psilocybin services.
(4) To be fully informed of, and helped to understand, the risks associated with psilocybin services.
(5) To make decisions autonomously, free of coercion and undue influence.
(6) To be fully informed of the benefits and risks associated with psilocybin services.
(7) To privacy and confidentiality and to control how their information is processed and used.
(8) To decline to participate in research or share information with third parties, except as required by law.
(9) To a full accounting and explanation of all facilitator conflicts of interest and the costs associated with receiving psilocybin services before receiving those services.
(10) To have belongings stored securely while receiving psilocybin services.
(11) To be monitored and supported by a licensed facilitator for the duration of psilocybin services until it is safe for the client to be transported home, transferred to the care of a responsible friend or family member, or released on their own recognizance.
(12) To access services that are welcoming to people with disabilities.
(13) To discuss this Bill of Rights with licensed facilitators and service center operators without facing discrimination or retaliation.
(14) To report violations of this Bill of Rights to the Washington Department of Health, or other appropriate governing body, without facing discrimination or retaliation.
Washington’s new psilocybin bill may undergo changes before making its way to the legislature this spring. Stay tuned to Psychedelic Week for more updates and detailed analysis.
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*The views expressed on Psychedelic Week do not represent the views of POPLAR at the Petrie-Flom Center at Harvard Law School or the Florida State University College of Law. Psychedelic Week is an independent project unaffiliated with these programs and institutions.
Mason Marks, MD, JD is the Florida Bar Health Law Section Professor at the Florida State University College of Law. He is the senior fellow and project lead of the Project on Psychedelics Law and Regulation (POPLAR) at the Petrie-Flom Center at Harvard Law School and an affiliated fellow at the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. Marks teaches drug law, constitutional law, and administrative law. Before moving to Florida, he served on the Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board where he chaired its Licensing Subcommittee. Marks has drafted drug policies for state and local lawmakers. His forthcoming book on psychedelic law and politics will be published by Yale University Press. He tweets at @MasonMarksMD and @PsychedelicWeek.