The Bulletin

Virginia lawmakers propose legalizing medicinal use of psychedelic mushroom compound psilocybin

By: - January 10, 2023 2:55 pm

Psilocybin mushrooms sit in a fridge on July 18, 2005 in London, England. (Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

Two Virginia lawmakers have introduced legislation that would allow use of the psychedelic drug psilocybin for medicinal purposes and decrease penalties for possession, citing research on its effectiveness in treating mental health issues. 

Both Del. Dawn Adams, D-Richmond, and Sen. Ghazala Hashmi, D-Chesterfield, had similar bills decriminalizing psychedelic mushrooms last session. But while those proposals were tabled, some Republican legislators said then they would be open to hearing legislation this session regarding medicinal usage of the drug. 

This year, Adams’ bill would allow doctors to issue prescriptions for psilocybin, a psychedelic compound often found in “magic” mushrooms, to treat patients with mental health disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, cases of severe depression where past treatments have failed and end-of-life anxiety

“These are natural medications extremely helpful and very unlikely to be abused,” said Adams, who is also a nurse practitioner.

The legislation would also reduce the penalty for possession of psilocybin without a prescription – currently a Class 5 felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison – to a Class 2 misdemeanor punishable by no longer than 30 days in jail and no more than a $500 fine.

Adams said she structured her bill similar to legislation passed in 2015 that legalized CBD possession and distribution for medical purposes after speaking with the bill’s patron, former Del. Dave Albo, R-Springfield. 

Hashmi’s legislation would create a Virginia Psilocybin Advisory Board to develop a long-term plan for establishing therapeutic access to psilocybin services. It would also reclassify psilocybin from a Schedule I to a Schedule III controlled substance. 

Republican legislators last year “expressed understanding of the kind of crisis we are facing in mental health issues,” said Hashmi, who added she is optimistic about the possibility of building bipartisan support for the legislation this session. 

Asked about the proposals, House Republican Caucus spokesperson Garren Shipley said in an email that “as of now, our House Republican Caucus simply hasn’t had a chance to review this legislation, but these bills will no doubt receive due consideration when the House convenes this week.”

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Meghan McIntyre

Mercury intern Meghan McIntyre is a recent graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in digital journalism. She has stories covering Virginia government and politics published in various outlets across the state through Capital News Service, a course in the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture at VCU. She was also a previous news intern at VPM and briefly freelanced for The Farmville Herald and The Suffolk News-Herald. She can be reached at [email protected]

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