Earlier this year, Iowa Representative Jeff Shipley (R-Fairfield) introduced a series of bills in the Iowa legislature focused on the decriminalization of some psychedelic drugs for medical use. According to the Des Moines Register, these bills appear to be the first of their kind introduced into the Iowa legislature.
In a recent interview, Shipley told Marijuana Moment, “Exploring these issues are paramount to solving the healthcare crisis. There’s so much potential for research and clinical applications. I hope we can empower and trust patients to make their own best decisions.”
There are other active campaigns around the country to decriminalize psychedelics for medical and therapeutic purposes. Efforts by the Oregon Psilocybin Society recently resulted in gathering enough signatures to put legalization of psilocybin-assisted therapy on the ballot in 2020. Denver, Colorado will be voting on decriminalizing psilocybin-containing mushrooms on May 7th. And just this week, a group in Oakland, California called Decriminalize Nature Oakland is working to put decriminalization of psychedelic drugs on the ballot.
How Drug Penalties Would Change in Iowa
Currently, psychedelics like LSD and psilocybin are classified as Schedule I drugs by the US federal government under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Schedule I drugs are considered to have a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the US, and unsafe to use under medical supervision. At a state level in Iowa, the first conviction for possession of a Schedule I substance is a serious misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,875 and up to one year in jail, or both. A second conviction is an aggravated misdemeanor with the person facing a fine up to $6,250 and one year in jail. Or, they can receive no fine and up to two years in prison. Third and subsequent convictions for controlled substance possession in Iowa is a Class D felony. This conviction is punishable by fines up to $7,500 and up to five years in prison, or both.
It is important to note that researchers at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine recently published a comprehensive article challenging these assumptions of the CSA about psychedelics and advocating for their reclassification to Schedule IV. This move by Hopkins is driven by current research studies that show the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics like psilocybin, LSD, and ibogaine for treating a variety of conditions. For example, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently granted breakthrough treatment status for psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression.
One of the bills Shipley submitted would remove the criminal penalties associated with certain psychedelic drugs and psilocybin mushrooms when they are used for medicinal purposes. In conjunction with this bill, another would allow the state pharmacy board to reclassify psilocybin, ibogaine, and MDMA for medicinal purposes. Another bill would remove psilocybin and psilocin from the list of substances the State of Iowa believes have no currently accepted medical use.
Will the Bills Pass?
Shipley concedes that his Republican colleagues aren’t showing promising support for the bills. “Obviously, it is very controversial and does elicit a lot of feelings,” he told the Des Moines Register.
Iowa Republican Representative and Chair of the House Public Safety Committee Jared Klein says he doesn’t see the legislation advancing anytime soon. Klein told the Register, “I haven’t gotten an email from a constituent. I haven’t received a phone call or had a discussion with anybody in the medical field saying that, ‘We need to have access to this.’ It just seems like an idea from one legislator that they wanted to propose as law. Which is their prerogative, but that’s all it is at this point.”
If the voters agree, Shipley would like to serve in office for a decade. During that time he plans to keep up the fight and reintroduce the legislation.