RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A bill that would have reduced penalties for possessing psilocybin, the key ingredient in “magic mushrooms,” died in the Virginia House on Tuesday.
The bill was initially passed with bipartisan support in the Virginia Senate. It would have also established a Virginia psilocybin advisory board and a plan for therapeutic access. Possession of psilocybin in Virginia remains punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a possible $2,500 fine.
Psilocybin is the psychoactive ingredient that gives “magic mushrooms” their hallucinogenic effects.
Psilocybin is a Schedule I drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act, meaning the federal government considers it to be of no medicinal value and highly addictive. The latest act proposed that this categorization be changed to a Schedule III substance, which is defined as drugs with a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence.
Studies by Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers have shown psychedelic treatment with psilocybin relieved major depressive disorder symptoms in adults for up to a month. Researchers also reported in a follow-up study that “the substantial antidepressant effects of psilocybin-assisted therapy, given with supportive psychotherapy, may last at least a year for some patients.”
Similarly, scientists from Imperial College London’s Centre for Psychedelic Research discovered that psilocybin was as effective as the conventional antidepressant. They came to this conclusion after studying 59 participants who were either given psilocybin or a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, which is a common antidepressant.
Previously, a push to decriminalize psilocybin failed in the 2022 Virginia General Assembly session. The Virginia Senate Judiciary Committee killed a bill at the end of January 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 this year.
The most recent bill, SB 932, was introduced by state Sens. Ghazala Hashmi (D-Chesterfield) and Jennifer Boysko (D-Loudoun). The 40-member chamber voted 25-15 to pass the measure that moved to the House. The bill was tabled in the House Rules Committee with a 13-5 vote.