Alaska House passes bill to establish psychedelic medicine task force


Maddie McCarthy


A bill that would establish the Alaska task force for the regulation of psychedelic medicines passed its third reading in the House on Thursday. 

House Bill 228, sponsored by Rep. Jennie Armstrong (D-Anchorage), would establish the task force in order to guide the legislature in the event of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) approval of psychedelic drugs for mental health treatment.

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“This August, it is widely anticipated that the FDA will approve the most significant medicine for the treatment of mental health in decades,” Armstrong said. “The first medicine that would be approved this August is MDMA, with psilocybin expected to follow in the next one to two years.”

Armstrong said the task force would not take a position on whether or not psychedelic medicine is good or bad, and would not be a public health task force.

“It will simply be looking at the facts and helping the legislature understand what regulations or changes we need to make to accommodate this major medical development,” Armstrong said.

The task force is important because of the outsized impact psychedelic therapies could have on the state, and because of the unique way the treatment is administered, Armstrong said. In order to receive treatment, a patient would go to a clinical facility to take the drug—it would never be given to a patient to take home—where they would complete three sessions under the influence of the approved psychedelic, as well as 12 drug-free therapy sessions.

Armstrong noted that Alaska has high rates of mental health issues, addiction, and suicide, and that the state has the most veterans per capita. 

She added that she has been working on HB 228 for the past year-and-half and has heard many powerful stories from veterans and sexual assault survivors about their positive treatment experiences in psychedlic therapy trials or treatment they received abroad. 

“The phase 3 trial data for MDMA therapy that is currently under review found that 71.2 percent of patients who completed this therapy no longer met the diagnostic criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder,” Armstrong said. 

The current drug application under review by the FDA follows 20 years of trial data, Armstrong said, and the most common side effects reported in the trials were nausea and sweating.

“The folks who are undergoing this treatment are in incredibly vulnerable states, and this medicine amplifies that vulnerability. And that’s why I believe it is so important that we pay very close attention to how we, for example, license these practitioners … [The task force] will also be looking at insurance, barriers to implementation, as well as any necessary legal or regulatory changes we would need to make as a result of the FDA approval and Drug Enforcement Administration reclassification.”

— Armstrong

Armstrong wants the state to be prepared for the FDA’s approval of psychedelics for treatment. 

“Whether you are expectant and excited about the idea of psychedelics getting approved, you’re neutral, or you’re flat out against it, I think we can all agree that if it is coming, we should be prepared and be thoughtful in how we will approach it so we can make sure Alaskans can safely access this treatment,” Armstrong said.

Rep. Laddie Shaw (R-Anchorage), former state director for Veterans Affairs, spoke in support of HB 228.

“I’ve had veterans come to me regarding this bill and they have said, ‘We’ve done nothing for the last 50 years. Let’s do something,’” Shaw said. “This task force gives us an opportunity to move forward with some productivity on behalf of our veterans.”

House Majority leader Rep. Dan Saddler (R-Eagle River) spoke in opposition to the bill.

“I value our service members and veterans, especially the unique service they provide for us, and I respect that they have special needs and that we should be innovative and be willing to have an open mind to ways we can help them,” Saddler said. “However, I rise against this bill because I don’t believe we should be going off in a direction in what I believe to be a premature fashion.”

Saddler said the task force outlined in HB 228 would allow for its members to recruit others with the same perspective. He also said he is concerned the bill reflects an uncritical acceptance that the use of psychedelic drugs are beneficial.

Rep. Jamie Allard (R-Eagle River) also spoke in opposition to the bill, expressing concern about present drug dependencies within the veteran community, and using drugs and experimental treatments in the community.

“I really want to be careful of what we’re subjecting our citizens [to] and using our military veterans as experiments,” Allard said. “We aren’t experiments. We are human beings that deserve to have things done in the proper manner, slowly and concisely.”

Rep. Sarah Vance (R-Homer), spoke in support of HB 228, emphasizing that she is in favor of the task force, not necessarily the treatment itself.

“[Even though] I am very reticent to say yes to the use of these medicines, I want to know what the impact is, and that is why I am standing in support of the task force to ask the appropriate questions with the authorities,” Vance said.

HB 228 is scheduled for a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Monday.

1 thought on “Alaska House passes bill to establish psychedelic medicine task force”

  1. HB228 should go to the waste basket for good. It has not been approved and until it has, should not be used on anyone, the least of which is the military. Laddie Shaw should stop and think before he hands this devastating medical method to the Veteran world. When it is proven and gone through enough research, it will be changed and documented for many research reasons. No to this drug!! Not for a few years and until it is changed by research and FDA approval.


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