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A bill creating a psilocybin advisory board has failed

In this Friday, May 24, 2019 photo a vendor bags psilocybin mushrooms at a cannabis marketplace.
Richard Vogel
In this Friday, May 24, 2019 photo a vendor bags psilocybin mushrooms at a cannabis marketplace.

Lawmakers in Richmond have legalized marijuana although they are still working on creating a retail market. Meanwhile, they're also debating the use of psychedelic mushrooms.

Veterans groups say psilocybin helps with post-traumatic stress disorder, and a growing number of lawmakers are interested in finding some way to make psychedelic mushrooms more available. Last year, lawmakers considered decriminalizing. This year, they considered creating an advisory board. Both were rejected, but opinions may be shifting. Here’s Senator Ghazala Hashmi, a Democrat from Chesterfield.

"I myself was not fully on board. I was a skeptic," Hashmi said. "But it's the research that is overwhelmingly compelling, and especially research that's coming out of such venerable institutions such as Johns Hopkins and the efficacy has been proven, most especially with our veterans who have very limited options for treatment."

Mark Miller is a substance-abuse counselor who testified in favor of the bill creating an advisory board.

"So, under very specific and controlled situations, it's an opportunity for individuals to reset their neural pathways. By resetting their neural pathways, they’re able to think about things in a different way," Miller explained. "And so, what it does is that it shapeshifts, it resets their experiences in trauma or those kinds of things. It's a very effective tool."

The bill creating a psilocybin advisory board was defeated, although the effort has a growing number of Republican supporters. And Hashmi says she'll continue the effort next year.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.