SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (March 10, 2022) – Last week, an Illinois House committee held a hearing on a bill that would legalize the possession of “magic mushrooms” despite the ongoing federal prohibition of psilocybin. The passage of the bill would set the stage to nullify federal prohibition in practice and effect.
Rep. LaShawn Ford (D) is the sponsor of House Bill 1 (HB1), titled the “Illinois Cure Act.” The legislation would remove psilocybin from the state’s list of controlled substances, in effect making it fully legal under state law for personal possession and consumption. The passage of the bill would also set up a state psilocybin advisory board within the Department of Public Health that would oversee a legal and regulatory structure to establish psilocybin service centers for treating patients and for the commercial production of psilocybin.
HB1 also includes provisions to expunge past offenses involving psilocybin.
On March 8, the House Executive Committee held a public hearing on HB1. This is an important step in the legislative process. Based on witness slips for the bill, opponents of the bill outnumber supporters by more than a 3-to-1 margin.
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 Illinois 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 Detriot 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 many of the drugs on HB0001’s decriminalization list and heavily regulates others. 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 HB1 would end criminal enforcement of laws prohibiting the possession of psilocybin in Illinois. 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.
HB1 must first pass by a majority vote in the Executive Committee before moving forward in the legislative process.