The Bulletin

Virginia lawmakers vote down bills to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms

By: - January 31, 2022 3:26 pm

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

Virginia lawmakers have voted down legislation that would decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms, but not before the measure picked up some unexpected bi-partisan enthusiasm.

Democrats behind the bill pitched it as a step toward making therapeutic uses of the fungi available to people suffering from depression and PTSD. And groups that testified in support of the measure framed it as especially valuable to veterans.

Republicans in the House said they felt the proposal had merit but needed more work, suggesting Del. Dawn Adams, D-Richmond, bring it back next year. In the Senate, GOP members urged Democratic patrons to put together a framework that more narrowly tailored the measure to medical uses.

“I’ve had a family member that has suffered from depression and it is insidious,” Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment, R-James City, said at a hearing last week. “Sometimes we have to rely upon intuition and take a change. …. I’m going to support this because I believe it’s genuinely going to provide some relief and help to individuals.”

Sen. Mark Peake, R-Lynchburg, also said he was open to the idea, but worried that even if it passed the Senate it would reach a dead end in the House. “Without any guidelines by counselors or medical folks or anything along those lines, then it will not get out of the House where any college kids can have this for fun — I bet the House is not ready for that,” he said. “I would be in favor of that as I would be for medical marijuana.”

On Monday, Sens. Ghazala Hashmi, D-Chesterfield, and Jennifer Boysko, D-Fairfax, offered a revised bill that would have limited the reduced penalties to a $100 fine for people who had consulted with health care professionals about use of the drug. Possession of the drug is currently a felony offense.

But the GOP support from the prior week had evaporated as Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee raised concerns about people driving while on psychedelics. Two Democrats, Sens. Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax and Joe Morrissey, D-Richmond, joined Republicans on the committee to pass the bill by for the year.

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Ned Oliver
Ned Oliver

Ned, a Lexington native, has been a fulltime journalist since 2008, beginning at The News-Gazette in Lexington, and including stints at the Berkshire Eagle, in Berkshire County, Mass., and the Times-Dispatch and Style Weekly in Richmond. He is a graduate of Bard College at Simon’s Rock, in Great Barrington, Mass. He was named Virginia's outstanding journalist for 2020 by the Virginia Press Association.