Virginia Republicans Block Multiple Bills Related to ‘Magic Mushroom’ Psilocybin, Again


Two bills related to psilocybin, a hallucinogenic compound found in magic mushrooms, have been under debate by Virginia lawmakers.

The first bill, HB 1513, proposed by Del. Dawn M. Adams (D), seeks to legalize the distribution and possession of psilocybin for specific medical use cases, such as depression, PTSD, and end-of-life anxiety. The bill would prevent healthcare practices or pharmacies from facing prosecution for distributing psilocybin for those therapeutic uses. The bill would also make possession of psilocybin without a prescription a Class 2 misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or up to a $500 fine. Second or subsequent offenses would be a Class 1 misdemeanor. This bill did not advance out of a subcommittee and is effectively dead for the session.

The second bill, SB 932, proposed by Sen. Ghazala Hashmi (D), aims to create the Virginia Psilocybin Advisory Board, which would develop strategic plans for therapeutic access to psilocybin, study federal laws and regulations, and report its activities and recommendations annually to the Governor and the General Assembly. To facilitate therapeutic access to psilocybin, the Virginia Psilocybin Advisory Board would consist of a panel of 12 Virginia citizens, including physical and mental health officials, researchers, and mushroom experts. A representative from the Department of Veterans Services would also serve on the board.  Also, this bill also reclassifies psilocybin from a Schedule I to a Schedule III controlled substance under the Drug Control Act, which reduces the punishment for illegal possession. That bill, however, was tabled by Republicans in a party-line vote, 13-5.

Both lawmakers introduced similar bills in the last General Assembly session.

Despite the lack of success in Virginia this year, other states have already decriminalized or legalized psilocybin for medical, therapeutic, or religious use. For example, Oregon became the first state to decriminalize psilocybin in 2020, followed by Colorado in 2022. Furthermore, Iowa, Missouri, New Hampshire, and Utah have introduced psilocybin bills in 2023.

Recent research by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology on February 15, 2022, suggests that psychedelic treatment with psilocybin, combined with supportive psychotherapy, has the potential to produce significant and long-lasting improvements in depression. The study recruited 27 participants with a long-term history of depression and randomized them into two groups, with both receiving psilocybin-assisted therapy. Both groups experienced large decreases in depression, and depression severity remained low one, three, six, and 12 months after treatment. The follow-up period showed stable rates of response to treatment and remission of symptoms, with 75% of participants experiencing a response and 58% achieving remission at 12 months.

Additionally, with the FDA granting “breakthrough therapy designation” in 2018 to COMPASS Pathways to research psilocybin, initial peer-reviewed studies have shown “positive results” published in health journals.

Wyly Gray, a veteran who runs the nonprofit Veterans of War, testified in support of Adams’ bill and shared that he travels with veterans to foreign countries to provide them with psilocybin medicine. Gray believes that psilocybin should be available in the U.S. to prevent veterans from being punished for seeking life-changing help. He recounted how one of his veterans ended up in jail two years ago for trying to heal themselves, and expressed concern that such incidents contribute to the high suicide rates among veterans. Gray emphasized that the nation is facing an “absolute epidemic” of mental health care emergencies and that access to psilocybin can mitigate many of these crises.

Image from Adobe Stock

RVA Staff

RVA Staff

Since 2005, the dedicated team at RVA Magazine, known as RVA Staff, has been delivering the cultural news that matters in Richmond, VA. This talented group of professionals is committed to keeping you informed about the events and happenings in the city.

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