Virginia lawmakers introduced new bills this week to decriminalize the possession of psychedelics.
The proposals in the House of Delegates and Senate are nearly identical, except that the measure in the former chamber covers several psychedelic substances while the other would only reduce penalties for psilocybin and psilocyn.
The House proposal would amend state drug statute by making possession of “peyote, ibogaine, psilocybin, or psilocyn” by adults 21 and older a civil penalty that carries a $100 fine. Currently, such possession is considered a Class 5 felony.
Any dollars collected from psychedelics possession violations would go to the state’s Drug Offender Assessment and Treatment Fund, which supports substance misuse treatment programs and drug courts.
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At a recent virtual event organized by the reform group Decriminalize Nature Virginia, the lawmakers participated as hosts, sharing their perspectives about the growing body of research indicating that psychedelics could be powerful tools to combat conditions like treatment-resistant depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“One thing that has intrigued me in the process of learning myself is the kind of tremendous research that is available that demonstrates that these particular plant based medicines have the capacity to heal, to help and assist people in ways that other medicines often cannot do,” Hashmi said at the December event.
Adams, for her part, said she’s “spent a lot of time studying plant medicine, particularly psilocybin” and she reached the conclusion that “it offers unique and extraordinary paths to help people out of things like fear at the end of life and refractory depression and PTSD.”
A potential challenge for the bill sponsors will be moving a psychedelics reform proposal through the House under new GOP leadership. And if the legislature does approve the legislation, it could face resistance from the state’s incoming Republican governor, Glenn Youngkin, who has expressed concerns about implementing a commercial marijuana market in line with what the Democratic legislature and outgoing governor approved last year.
But the filing of the psychedelics bill in Virginia is just the latest example of state lawmakers following the tide of local decriminalization efforts that have played out across the country.
For example, a Republican Missouri lawmaker on Wednesday introduced a bill to give residents with serious illnesses legal access to a range of psychedelic drugs like psilocybin, ibogaine and LSD through an expanded version of the state’s existing right-to-try law.
California Sen. Scott Wiener (D) told Marijuana Moment in a recent interview that his bill to legalize psychedelics possession stands a 50/50 chance of reaching the governor’s desk this year. It already cleared the full Senate and two Assembly committees during the first half of the two-year session.
In Michigan, a pair of state senators introduced a bill in September to legalize the possession, cultivation and delivery of various plant- and fungi-derived psychedelics like psilocybin and mescaline.
Washington State lawmakers also introduced legislation this month that would legalize what the bill calls “supported psilocybin experiences” by adults 21 and older.
In Vermont, a broad coalition of lawmakers representing nearly a third of the House introduced a bill to decriminalize drug possession.
New Hampshire lawmakers filed measures to decriminalize psilocybin and all drugs.
Last year, the governor of Connecticut signed legislation that includes language requiring the state to carry out a study into the therapeutic potential of psilocybin mushrooms.
Similar legislation was also enacted in the Texas legislature, requiring the state to study the medical risks and benefits of psilocybin, MDMA and ketamine for military veterans in partnership with Baylor College of Medicine and a military-focused medical center.