PROVIDENCE, R.I. (June 7, 2023) – Yesterday, a Rhode Island House committee passed a bill that would legalize the possession of psilocybin and the cultivation of “magic mushrooms,” setting the stage to nullify federal prohibition of the same in practice and effect.
Rep. Brandon Potter and a bipartisan coalition of cosponsors introduced House Bill 5923 (HB5923) on March 1. The legislation would remove criminal penalties for possessing and cultivating up to one ounce of psilocybin for personal use. The proposed law would also allow adults to share up to 1 ounce of psilocybin with other adults.
HB5923 also includes provisions setting the stage for regulated therapeutic access to psilocybin if the FDA reschedules the psychedelic.
On June 6, the House Judiciary Committee passed HB5923 by a 12-2 vote with an amendment sunsetting the legalization on July 1, 2025.
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 HB5923 would end criminal enforcement of laws prohibiting the possession of psilocybin in Rhode Island. 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.
HB5923 will now move to the full House for further consideration.
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