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Connecticut Democratic Governor Has ‘Concerns’ About Psilocybin Decriminalization, His Office Says As Lawmakers Plan For 2024 Reform



As advocates renew their push to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms in Connecticut, the Democratic governor who signed marijuana legalization into law evidently has concerns about moving toward broader psychedelics reform.

Lawmakers and activists held an informational forum on Wednesday, discussing the therapeutic potential of substances such as psilocybin and potential pathways to allow for regulated access.

But as supporters plan for the reintroduction of a bill to decriminalize psilocybin—an earlier version of which passed the House but did not advance in the Senate last year—a spokesperson for Gov. Ned Lamont (D) is signaling that it may face a major barrier to enactment.

“The governor has concerns about broad decriminalization of mushrooms,” spokesperson David Bednarz told The Hartford Courant. “However, it is a bit too early to speculate because a bill has not been filed yet, and we have no language to review.”

As the prior version to decriminalize possession of psilocybin advanced last year, Lamont also reportedly threatened to veto it, despite having championed and signed into law legislation to legalize cannabis in 2021.

Lamont signed a large-scale budget bill in 2022 that includes provisions to set the state up to provide certain patients with access to psychedelic-assisted treatment using substances like MDMA and psilocybin.

Prior to that, he also signed separate legislation in 2021 that required the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services to create a task force to study the therapeutic potential of psilocybin mushrooms.

But broad decriminalization of so-called “magic mushrooms,” apparently, may be a bridge too far from his perspective.

The threat of possible resistance from the governor isn’t stopping advocates from preparing for psychedelics reform in the 2024 session, however. With the House and Senate set to reconvene next month, Wednesday’s informational forum, which was hosted by a lawmaker and took place inside the legislative building, was meant to restart the conversation.

“We encourage the governor to watch our forum and review the bill from last year that passed through the House, and articulate what his specific concerns are so that we can address them openly and transparently,” Jason Ortiz, policy director of Connecticut for Accessible Psychedelic Medicine who also serves as director of strategic initiatives for the Last Prisoner Project, told Marijuana Moment.

“Our community made it clear yesterday that we are ready, willing and able to address any concerns, and we look forward to meeting with the governor to assist him in passing a sensible psilocybin decrim bill,” Ortiz, who organized the forum, said.

Several lawmakers appeared at the meeting, expressing optimism about the prospect of advancing the issue in the 2024 session and potentially moving beyond simple decriminalization.

“It feels like right now in my lifetime, this is an all-time low in mental health, so I’ve always been curious about alternative nature-based therapies,” Rep. David Michel (D), who hosted the forum, said. “In our world as elected officials, I believe it is up to us to do our due diligence and stay current with the world of science.”

Rep. Anne Hughes (D) said the purpose of the meeting, which involved testimony from advocates and experts across the country, is so that lawmakers “can have the latest expertise in an ancient plant-based medicine that we so desperately need.”

Rep. Nicole Klarides-Ditria (R), ranking member on the Public Health Committee, added that she was looking forward to hearing from experts to “see the reasons why we need to bring this drug into Connecticut” and learn more about “the benefits of making it more readily accessible to the people that need it the most.”

“That’s our job here is to hear all sides of the story, so we can go back to our constituents and our fellow legislators and give them the facts—just the scientific facts as to why this will help many, many people hopefully in the state of Connecticut,” she said.

Participants in the information forum also featured experts such as New Approach PAC’s Jared Moffat, who is actively working on an effort to enact psychedelics legalization in Massachusetts, Harvard Medical School’s Peter Grinspoon and Kevin Matthews, a national leader in the movement who helmed the campaign to make Denver the first city in the country to decriminalize psilocybin in 2019.

The Connecticut governor isn’t the only obstacle for psychedelics reform supporters in the state. House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora (R) said this week that “Democrats are creating a culture of drugs” that started with cannabis and is “going to transition to magic mushrooms.”

“Next, it will be cocaine and heroin,” he said, according to The Hartford Courant, adding that psilocybin “should be done under a doctor’s care, not under self-medication.”

“This is just a veiled attempt to continue to decriminalize illicit drug use under the guise that there’s some medicinal value to it,” Candelora said.

Separately, a Connecticut lawmaker also introduced different legislation last session that would have appropriated an unspecified amount of state funds to the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services for the current fiscal year to establish a “psychedelic-assisted therapy pilot program.”

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Photo courtesy of Dick Culbert.

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