ADAPT WA members discussed an initiative that would authorize and regulate the manufacture, sale, and use of psilocybin in Washington State on Sunday.
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The ADAPT WA political action committee was established to support Initiative Measure No. 1886, which would allow licensed Washingtonians to provide psilocybin products and services to people 21 and older. ADAPT WA’s Ben Silesky discussed the initiative at a fundraiser at Seattle’s OmCulture Wallingford. He said psilocybin plants can provide an alternative to other drugs typically used to treat mental health disorders, like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI).
“Our current mental health system is broken,” Silesky said. “If things like SSRIs work for you, that’s great. But the pharmaceutical model of mental health treatment is failing a lot of people.”
Silesky referenced a Johns Hopkins study as an example of how psilocybin can serve as an effective alternative to assist those looking to quit smoking. Johns Hopkins researchers reported that 15 study participants who took psilocybin achieved an 80% abstinence rate over six months, compared to an approximate 35% success rate for patients taking varenicline, which is widely considered to be the most effective smoking cessation drug.
In addition to regulating the sale and use of psilocybin in the state, I-1886 calls for the Washington Department of Health to create an advisory board to develop rules for a psilocybin program over an 18-month period.
“There is so much to work out in that 18-month developmental period,” Silesky said. “Not just for the people who sit on the committee, but for all of us who need to show up and advocate and make sure these rules are the best they can be; that we’re including a lot of different principles, like equitable access and facilitation training. And making sure that if you want to be a facilitator you can do that and there’s not too many prohibitive fees.”
Silesky said he envisions an advisory board that includes people representing health care, psychedelic, low-income, and BIPOC communities.
“The only type of person that is not allowed on that committee is law enforcement,” he said.
The I-1866 plan would utilize two different types of psilocybin facilitators at licensed facilities. A community facilitator would conduct a preparation session, then schedule a follow-up session if the client is deemed eligible for psilocybin use. A medical facilitator would be authorized by the state to prescribe controlled medications, and could give an eligible client a microdose of psilocybin that would not have to be consumed at the facility. Those interested in becoming a facilitator would not need to be a licensed doctor or therapist, but would need to pass training requirements.
Anyone over the age of 21 would be eligible for use as long as they can prove they can safely use the drug and will not experience any adverse physical effects during a screening process. The screening process would examine any medical issues and allow patients to familiarize themselves with their facilitator/therapist.
“It’s also a good time for your therapist to give you flight instructions,” Silesky said. “If you’ve never taken psilocybin before you probably want a detailed description of what you should expect. And the intention-setting process in the screening process is very important. Writing down your intentions before every single psilocybin endeavor is vital.”
Psilocybin products would be taxed, which will help ensure equitable access to them, Silesky said.
“Insurance companies are not going to pay for this,” he said. “By having a tax placed on the sale of psilocybin we’re ensuring we have a pool of money to sponsor different people who can’t otherwise afford the upfront costs. Mental health care services are just financially inaccessible for a lot of people.”
Access to psilocybin would not require a diagnosis from a health care provider, Silesky said.
“Psilocybin has enormous potential to help people with mental health issues,” he said. “It also has enormous potential to help people who are healthy and normal. So we want to make sure this is open to as many people as possible and not have you need a doctor to sign off and say you have a diagnosable problem.”
ADAPT WA members will focus on raising money to support their effort to acquire the signatures needed to place I-1886 on the general election ballot. They plan to hire a firm to provide guidance in signature gathering, create campaign ads, and hire campaign staffers, Silesky said.