Should Vermont decriminalize some hallucinogenic drugs?

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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) Some Vermont lawmakers have high hopes about passing a bill that would decriminalize some hallucinogenic drugs, but others are skeptical of the drugs' medicinal purposes.

Our Dom Amato spoke with the bill's sponsor and Vermonters who had mixed reactions.

The bill proposes decriminalizing psilocybin, the psychoactive substance in "magic mushrooms," as well as other plant-based hallucinogens like peyote, kratom and ayahuasca.

Medical professionals have concerns about the drugs and most of them are illegal in Vermont.

But Rep. Brian Cina says they hold a higher meaning and purpose than just being drugs.

"The government shouldn't be criminalizing a plant that was created for us to use to heal ourselves," said Cina, P/D-Burlington.

Cina believes health care shouldn't be a criminal matter. That's why he wants to decriminalize several hallucinogenic drugs.

"If you look at traditions all around the earth, people have been using plant medicines to heal," Cina said.

According to Cina's bill, he's looking to decriminalize four drugs commonly used for medicinal, spiritual, religious or entheogenic purposes.

"In some cultures, peyote is used to heal mental and physical illness, and the same could be said for psilocybin mushrooms and ayahuasca," Cina said.

Peyote is a small, spineless cactus that produces mescaline, a hallucinogenic ingredient.

Ayahuasca is a plant-based psychedelic tea.

Kratom is in a gray area on the state level and federal level. The DEA calls it a drug of concern and there are no FDA-approved uses for it, although companies claim the plant is used for pain relief and opioid withdrawal, but it is not illegal.

In Vermont, an active ingredient in kratom was banned.

"People have to do it hidden and it shouldn't be that way," Cina said.

Psilocybin has been used in some clinical trials to treat depression in cancer patients. Some people we spoke with are on-board with the idea of decriminalizing hallucinogens.

"There's a lot of traditions in the world where that's an important part of it, so to be able to allow people to explore that or have it as a healing thing for medicine, I think that would be useful," said Gretel Dougherty of Burlington.

Others are still skeptical.

"I think its 100% ridiculous," said Jeff Nick of Shelburne.

The bill was read in the House and referred to the Committee on Judiciary. No word on when it will be discussed next or how far it will go.