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VA Lawmakers Approve Pot Sales Bills, OR Drug Recrim Bill Advances, More... (2/29/24)

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #1206)

Measures to allow the therapeutic use of psilocybin advanced in Arizona and Missouri, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Psilocybin is getting a lot of attention at statehouses these days. (Creative Commons)
Virginia Lawmakers Send Marijuana Sales Bill to Governor. Both chambers of the legislature voted on Wednesday to send a pair of bills authorizing the creation of a legal marijuana marketplace, Senate Bill 448 and House Bill 698, to the desk of Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R).

Only one Republican in the House and one in the Senate voted for the bills, and Youngkin said earlier this year he did not have much interest in pressing forward with marijuana legislation.

When Democrats controlled the state legislature in 2021, they passed a legalization bill that called for retail marijuana sales to begin no later than January 1 of this year, but Republicans gained control of the House and the governorship in 2022 and stifled legislation that would have allowed that goal to be met.

Since 2021, Virginians have been able to possess up to an ounce in public and grow up to four plants, but have had no place to legally purchase marijuana (unless they are medical marijuana patients). The bills sent to Gov. Youngkin would see retail sales begin May 1, 2025, with a retail tax rate of 11.625 percent.

"This is another long-awaited and historic victory for cannabis freedom in Virginia. However, what remains to be seen is if Governor Youngkin agrees with the majority of Virginians that it's time to take control of the marijuana market out of the hands of illicit operators and instead place it behind an age-verified counter at licensed dispensaries where it will be sold only to adults 21 and older," said NORML Development Director JM Pedini, who also serves as Virginia NORML Director.


Arizona Senate Passes Bill to Legalize Psilocybin Service Centers. The Senate on Thursday approved a bill with bipartisan support that would legalize psilocybin service centers where people could ingest the substance under medical supervision, Senate Bill 1570. The vote came swiftly after the measure won approval in the Senate Rules Committee and the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

The state has already adopted a law that provides $5 million a year for studies into psilocybin therapy, but this legislation would significantly expand that by allowing the Department of Human Services (DHS) to authorize licensed psilocybin-assisted therapy centers. At those centers, trained facilitators would administer the drug.

The bill would also create an Arizona Psilocybin Advisory Board, which would be responsible for setting training criteria for service center workers, recommending how the law should be implemented, and keeping up with scientific and policy developments in the realm of psychedelics. That board would include representatives of the attorney general's office and DHS, military veterans, first responders, and scientists who study psychedelics. Thanks to an amendment from the floor, it will also include a member of a Native American tribe who is familiar with the use of psilocybin in "culturally and spiritually significant ceremonies."

Missouri Senate Committee Approves Therapeutic Psilocybin for Vets. The Senate Emerging Issues Committee on Wednesday approved a bill that would legalize the therapeutic use of psilocybin by veterans, as well as funding studies to further explore the drug's therapeutic potential, Senate Bill 768.

The legislation from Sen. Holly Thompson Rehder (R) would allow military veterans 21 and over who suffer from qualifying conditions such as PTSD or substance use disorders to use lab-tested psilocybin. The bill originally would have allowed anyone 21 and over to access the drug but was amended in committee to restrict it to vets.

Prospective patients would have to be enrolled or seeking enrollment in a study involving the drug, and they would have to provide the Department of Mental Health with information about their diagnosis, their facilitator, and the time and place of treatment sessions.

Drug Policy

Oregon Bill to Recriminalize Drug Possession Wins Committee Vote. A measure that would undo the will of the voters in the 2020 vote to approve drug decriminalization and reintroduce criminal penalties for small-time drug possession, House Bill 4002, has been approved in a House committee on a bipartisan 10-2 vote. It now heads for a House floor vote.

The bill creates a new misdemeanor offense of minor drug possession, but includes provisions giving people the option of seeking treatment instead of facing criminal charges. It comes amidst fierce backlash to the 2020 drug decriminalization, which has been blamed for everything from increasing drug overdoses to crime and the homelessness crisis. Legislators faced the threat of an initiative to roll back decriminalization if they did not do it themselves, and now they are heading clearly in that direction.

But there is dissent. "The disproportionate impact on my community is ultimately too concerning for me to support the bill," said Rep. Andrea Valderrama (D), who is Peruvian-American. "And so therefore I will be a no tonight."

Rep. Floyd Prozanski (D) was also a "no" vote. "We're accelerating everything so quickly to try to get something out without thinking," he said.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

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