MONTPELIER, Vt. (Mar. 7, 2023) – A bill filed in the Vermont State House would legalize the use of psilocybin – the psychotropic substance in “magic mushrooms,” setting the stage to nullify federal prohibition of the same in practice and effect.
A coalition of 31 Democrats and one Republican led by Rep. Joseph Troiano (D) filed House Bill 371 (H371) on Feb. 24. The legislation would amend existing state law by removing criminal penalties for the “possessing, dispensing, or selling” of psilocybin. The bill would also establish a Psychedelic Therapy Advisory Working Group for continued research into the beneficial effects of psilocybin.
Psilocybin, often referred to as “magic mushrooms,” 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 Vermont 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. 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 H371 would end criminal enforcement of laws prohibiting the possession of psilocybin in Vermont. 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.
H371 was referred to the House Judiciary Committee, where it must get a hearing and pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.