ALBANY, N.Y. (Jan. 4, 2023) – A bill filed in the New York Assembly would legalize the personal possession and use of “magic mushrooms,” and ban state and local enforcement of the ongoing federal prohibition of the same. Passage would set the stage to nullify federal prohibition in practice and effect.
Assembly members Linda Rosenthal (D), Jo Simon (D), and Karines Reyes (D) filed Assembly Bill 114 (A114) for the 2023 legislative session on Jan. 4. The legislation would amend existing state law by allowing the possession and use of “natural plant or fungus-based hallucinogens,” including psilocybin, in effect making it fully legal under state law for personal possession and consumption.
The bill also prohibits the state from enforcing or helping enforce any federal laws prohibiting their possession or use:
State or local law enforcement agencies shall not cooperate with or provide assistance to the government of the United States or any agency thereof in enforcing the federal controlled substances act solely for actions permitted under this section, except as pursuant to a valid court order.
A114 also includes provisions to expunge past offenses involving psilocybin.
Psilocybin is a hallucinogenic compound found in certain mushrooms. A number of studies have shown psilocybin to be effective in the treatment of depression, PTSD, chronic pain and addiction. For instance, a Johns Hopkins study found that “psilocybin produces substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer.”
Efforts to legalize psilocybin in New York follow a successful ballot measure that decriminalized a number of drugs, including heroin and cocaine in Oregon. In 2022, Colorado voters passed a ballot measure decriminalizing several naturally occurring psychedelic substances. At least 14 cities including Detroit, Michigan have decriminalized “magic mushrooms.”
Psychedelic decriminalization and legalization efforts at the state and local levels are moving forward despite the federal government’s prohibition of psilocybin and other psychedelic substances.
Under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970, the federal government maintains the complete prohibition of psilocybin and other naturally occurring hallucinogens. Of course, the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to ban or regulate such substances within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.
In effect, the passage of A114 would end criminal enforcement of laws prohibiting the possession of psilocybin in New York. As we’ve seen with marijuana and hemp, when states and localities stop enforcing laws banning a substance, the federal government finds it virtually impossible to maintain prohibition. For instance, FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By curtailing or ending state prohibition, states sweep part of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.
Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly annual budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution either. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state and local assistance, and the same will likely hold true with other drugs.
AB114 will be officially introduced when the New York legislative session begins on Jan. 5. At that time, it will be referred to the Health Committee, where it must pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.
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