Psilocybin mushrooms, known as magic mushrooms or shrooms. Credit: Yarygin / Shutterstock

Possession of small amounts of psilocybin would become a ticketable infraction in Connecticut rather than a crime carrying potential prison time under a bill passed Wednesday on a divided vote of the House.

The chamber voted 86 – 64 to send the proposal to the state Senate during an afternoon session. The proposal, which would decriminalize possession of less than half an ounce of psilocybin drew support and opposition from members of both parties.

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Under the bill, carrying small amounts of the substance known as “magic mushrooms” would result in a $150 fine on the first offense. Subsequent offenses would carry fines of between $250 and $500 as well as referrals to drug education programs.

If passed by the Senate and signed by the governor, the bill would put Connecticut among a small list of states including Oregon and Colorado to decriminalize psilocybin. The ongoing reassessment of the hallucinogenic substance comes as a growing body of research suggests that controlled dosage of the drug can be effective in mitigating hard-to-treat mental health conditions like depression and post traumatic stress disorder.

During Wednesday’s debate, Rep. Steve Stafstrom, a Bridgeport Democrat who co-chairs the legislature’s Judiciary Committee, described the experiences of a friend who struggled with painkiller addiction and intractable depression after sustaining severe burns.

“He turned to psilocybin as a way to cope with his pain and with his anxiety and frankly… he credits it with saving his life,” Stafstrom said. “With being a way to get off of the addiction that was afflicting him and to deal with his pain.” 

Throughout a roughly hour-long debate, Stafstrom stressed that lawmakers were not considering legalizing the substance, the potential benefits and side effects of which he said required further study.

“In the meantime, we should not continue to perpetrate over-incarceration by treating this drug in the same category as we treat drugs like heroin or fentanyl,” he said.

The proposal drew opposition from some lawmakers, including those that felt it was a step towards full legalization of psilocybin. House Minority Vincent Candelora pointed to Connecticut’s recent legalization of cannabis possession and sale, which he said began with the 2011 law, which decriminalized less than a half ounce of the substance. 

“Now, we’re full-blown commercialized of an illicit product that’s illegal under federal law that you can’’t get away from even if you’re driving in your vehicle you smell it. You go out in public, you smell it. I get to visit my son in his college dormitory and there is not a day I’ve been there that it doesn’t reek of marijuana,” Candelora said. “That is what we’ve done for the children of the state of Connecticut.”

Asked about the bill during an unrelated press conference on Thursday, Gov. Ned Lamont said he would need to review the proposal before deciding whether he would support it but believed psilocybin had potentially valuable treatment applications.

“I assume it’s for medical purposes. I think that makes some sense. I don’t know if we want to be arresting people,” Lamont said. “I know what it means for PTSD and a lot of vets who are coming back.”