After legalizing simple possession of marijuana less than 1 year ago, Virginia is seeking to become the next state, behind Oregon to decriminalize the possession of psilocybin or psilocyn, commonly known as psychedelic or “magic” mushrooms. Recent legislation introduced in the Virginia Senate this week by Senators Ghazala Hashmi (D) and Jennifer Boysko (D) would make the possession of these substances by a person over 21 punishable by a civil penalty of no more than $100. Currently, possession of these substances is a Class 5 felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. A similar bill, introduced in the Virginia House of Delegates by Delegate Dawn Adams (D) would also decriminalize the possession of peyote, a cactus that contains the psychedelic compound mescalin, as well as ibogaine, an alkaloid substance found in a native African shrub called Tabernanthe iboga that has hallucinogenic properties.
The legislation follows a slow but growing movement toward decriminalizing certain drugs based on studies of their use in medical applications. For example, according to the results of a recent study psilocybin was found to be an effective therapy for treatment-resistant depression and ibogaine has been used to treat opioid and other addictions. However, these hallucinogens are still considered illegal federally and are classified as Schedule 1 drugs (similar to heroin and LSD) under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Pursuant to the CSA, Schedule 1 substances have a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision. However, non-hallucinogenic versions of some of these drugs are being developed.
Whether either of these bills passes remains to be seen, however, it does demonstrate that Virginia appears to be one of the states at the forefront of new and upcoming drug-related legislation. The attorneys at WRVB will be following this and similar legislation closely. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.