New push to decriminalize ‘magic mushrooms’ in Connecticut
“Magic mushrooms” are best known as a psychedelic – and sometimes dangerous – party drug. But studies show they can also treat severe depression and addiction.
Now, Connecticut lawmakers are once again considering decriminalizing small doses of the drug.
“I TRIED EVERYTHING”
Mark Guckel is all smiles today. But a few years ago, he hit rock bottom.
“I was in my bathroom smoking $3,000 worth of crack a day every single day, when I found a video online about psychedelic medicines,” he said.
Guckel is now a nationally known recovery coach. On Tuesday, he told a legislative forum that psilocybin – better known as “magic mushrooms” – has turned his life around.
“I tried everything to stop – detoxes, rehabs, going to meetings,” he said. “My life was pretty much over with, so I was desperate and willing to try anything.”
PUSH TO DECRIMINALIZE
This year, the General Assembly will consider decriminalizing less than a half-ounce of psilocybin. A similar effort passed the Connecticut House of Representatives last year but was never given a vote in the state Senate.
Critics said there are too many questions about its effects. Even Gov. Ned Lamont expressed concerns.
“I assume it’s for medical purposes,” he said last year. “I think that makes some sense. I don’t know if we want to be arresting people.”
That’s why lawmakers brought together more than a dozen researchers and experts on Tuesday.
“That’s our job here – is to hear all sides of the story so that we can go back to our constituents and our fellow legislators and give them the facts,” said state Rep. Nicole Klarides-Ditria (R-Seymour), the top Republican on the General Assembly’s Public Health Committee.
Studies have found that microdoses of “magic mushrooms” and ketamine can treat severe depression – with few side effects.
“Ten percent of people have, like, bad trips, which can be scary,” said Dr. Peter Grinspoon, a researcher with Harvard Medical School. “This can be avoided, not entirely but largely, with education and regulation.”
A report from the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services found “psilocybin to be a promising treatment for some behavioral health conditions, including substance use, depression, and palliative care for end-of-life anxiety and depression.” The U.S. Veterans Administration is also studying its potential to treat post-traumatic stress disorder.
DRUG STILL ILLEGAL
Doctors told the legislative panel that many patients avoid treatment because possessing psilocybin can land you in jail.
“No one wants to break the law. No one wants to get in trouble,” said Erin Doolittle, a marriage and family therapist. “They just want to feel better.”
Police are already dealing with a growing illegal market. In November, Connecticut State Police and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration busted an $8.5 million “magic mushroom” operation in Burlington.
COURTESY: CT STATE POLICE
Weston Soule, 21, is charged with intent to sell and distribute narcotics and operation of a drug factory.
COURTESY: CT STATE POLICE
Guckel reminded lawmakers that psilocybin is already easy to obtain in Connecticut.
“We have a lot of desperate people out there that are looking for access to these medicines,” he told the panel. “And honestly, some of them are very or readily available online.”
Psilocybin is already legal in Oregon and Colorado, but California Gov. Gavin Newsom recently vetoed a bill there.