RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The push to decriminalize psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in “magic mushrooms,” failed to get enough support in the 2022 Virginia General Assembly session.
The Virginia Senate Judiciary Committee killed a bill Monday that would have ended felony possession penalties for psilocybin for people 21 years and older, a week after a House subcommittee agreed to table the effort until next year.
Both measures were narrowed down to apply only to adults who have consulted with a health care professional.
The bills aimed to reduce the possession penalties from a Class 5 felony to a $100 civil penalty. Under the current law, possession of psilocybin or psilocin in Virginia is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a possible $2,500 fine.
The bill in the Virginia Senate, introduced by state Sen. Ghazala Hashmi (D-Chesterfield), appeared to gain bipartisan support when first presented to the judiciary committee on Jan. 19. Hashmi made changes to her bill after lawmakers expressed concerns over the legislation’s ability to pass through the Republican-controlled House of Delegates.
Before the vote Monday, Hashmi told the committee the initial plan of developing a full regulatory structure, similar to one lawmakers aim for legal marijuana, was “overwhelming to the process” and unnecessary. She said she made a simple amendment to allow the civil penalty to apply only to individuals using the substances for therapeutic reasons who are working with health care professionals.
Democrats on the committee asked how the legislation would seek to prevent people from driving while under the influence of psilocybin and how those caught with the substance would prove they have consulted with their doctor.
Hashmi said she didn’t have experience with the substance and couldn’t speak on whether people should be allowed to take psilocybin and operate a vehicle. Her bill would have required those who received approval from their doctor to provide proof to law enforcement if caught with psilocybin.
“I think this is something that has a lot of potential, I understand this is a small step,” Sen. Jennifer Boysko (D-Fairfax), who cited evidence that psilocybin is not addictive and helps with anxiety and PTSD.
Hashmi’s bill was killed in judiciary with two Democrats voting with Republicans. One Democrat, state Sen. Chap Petersen (Fairfax City), abstained.