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Update on New Jersey Psilocybin/Magic Mushrooms Legalization in the Assembly

The NJ Bar Association’s Psychedelic Law Subcommittee held a webinar with Deputy Assembly Speaker Raj Mukherji (D-Hudson) on New Jersey Psilocybin, or magic mushrooms, legalization.

He commented on the New Jersey Psilocybin magic mushrooms legalization bill introduced by NJ Senate President Nick Scutari (D-Union). Scutari recently said there might be a hearing on it. He introduced the bill S 2934 last June.

Magic Mushrooms Legalization in New Jersey

Mukherji is sponsoring the companion bill to legalize magic mushrooms in the New Jersey Assembly, A 4911 along with Herb Conaway (D-Burlington), James Kennedy (D-Union), and Clinton Calabrese (D-Bergen).

The bill legalizes magic mushroom home cultivation while cannabis home grow remains a felony.

(Heady NJ is holding a forum this Saturday the 24th to highlight the issue!)

“If the science supports palliative benefits and, and therapy and treatment for mental health disorder… there are parallels with what we’re doing with marijuana even though it’s federally illegal. So, it’s worth exploring,” Mukherji argued.

“We have a duty under our constitution to ensure that we are protecting the well-being of the people of our state,” he added. “We can facilitate the safe lawful sort of state law regulating access.”

Psilocybin or Shrooms Decriminalization Issue

However, “The bill that I ultimately predicate that will move its way through the legislature is not the bill that’s online,” Mukherji explained.

He noted possession of New Jersey shrooms or psilocybin was reduced within the referendum implementation adult use cannabis law the Cannabis Regulatory Enforcement And Marijuana Modernization Act (CREAMMA).

Mukherji shouted out Heady NJ when I pointed out in the Zoom chat that CREAMMA was signed into law two months after it passed the legislature in February 2021.

“You should all subscribe and be avid readers,” he said.

“I don’t know that we’re going to be able to move the bill that contains um decriminalization framework. I don’t think the support is there in the Assembly,” Mukherji explained.

He said the New Jersey magic mushrooms legalization process would be similar to how cannabis legalization unfolded under the New Jersey medical cannabis bill, the Compassionate Use of Medical Marijuana Act (CUMMA).

The problem with that is the program has always been overpriced for the most sickly who might not be able to afford it. In Oregon, it might cost $2,800 for legal magic mushrooms and a guide for a good trip.

(Mind) set and setting always greatly influence trips.

New Jersey Psilocybin Legalization for Medicine

“I think the decriminalization provisions might be separated and stricken from uh the medical psilocybin bill that moves,” Mukherji said. “It will look more like a medical-only bill.”

“I think we’re going to restrict the treatment centers, for now, depending on what appetite folks have. We’re going to try to start out maybe on a pilot program basis. We’re talking through some of this,” he noted. “Maybe start out with a pilot program, not sure.”

“Maybe start out with a number of treatment centers uh, uh sufficient in number so that patients in every county have access,” Mukherji explained. “But recognizing this not medical cannabis. This is a much narrower subset of debilitating illnesses. The research, the literature that supports md use has been limited.”

Limited Legal NJ Medical Shrooms Program Discussed

“It’s not gonna be 100 facilities. Maybe a dozen, maybe more. Think a combination of consumption lounge and Class 5 (retail dispensary) ATC (Alternative Treatment Center/dispensary),” he said. “Where you procure the product is likely to have uh you know… a treatment center where you can safely um consume and experience the benefits.”

“I have never tripped. Obviously, there are some dangers,” Mukherji noted. “Nobody in history has died from uh an actual cannabis overdose.”

“Everyone is going to be watching this. If it isn’t done right in the medical pilot, the rest of the thing has no shot,” he said.

Mukherji said it could be done in the lame-duck session after the election or the next session of the legislature from 2024 to 2025.

“We really appreciate the overview,” Joseph Shapiro of the subcommittee said. “Do we think hearings are coming up?”

“I think the Senate is planning a discussion-only hearing. Maybe even before the budget session ends at the end of June. We have to pass a budget by midnight on July 1st or the State shuts down,” Mukherji noted. “I don’t think the Assembly is going to take up kind of anything controversial until after the November election.”

He said that he wanted to get Republicans to sponsor it along with himself.

“I might have a discussion-only session in the Judiciary Committee which I chair when we return from the summer break. That would be November, December. It might not be a discussion only hearing,” Mukherji said.

Helping Veterans Cope with PTSD

*Lobbyist Beau Huch said that military veterans mobilizing to seek treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) would help the cause.

“I think it would really help with some of the conservatives, some of the Republicans to hear from that community. We just need a larger veteran presence on this. That’s the only way we’re going to be able to pull in anybody,” he said.

“Veterans are the population most readily to immediately benefit,” Mukherji noted. “I absolutely think we should be putting them front and center. I think this could be done over the objections of the minority party. But it shouldn’t be.”

He noted Monmouth and Ocean County which are dominated by Republicans would see the highest number of New Jersey medical psilocybin patients benefiting.

“Can there be a case made for politicians trying it themselves to have better insight?” Kristel Carrington asked.

“Shit I’ll do it. I haven’t yet,” he said.

Mukherji was an owner of Garden State Dispensary’s parent Multi-State Operator (MSO) cannabis corporation before it was sold to Ayr Wellness.

“I can 100 P can think of three or four of my colleagues that I could talk into trying it,” he said. “Id love to be able to get the Senate President to do it. I don’t know if I could talk him into it. He would probably be a little hesitant.”

Mukherji said they are discussing the issue with professional lobbyists and grassroots activists experienced with shrooms from Colorado and Rhode Island.  

He noted the difficulty of pronouncing the term psilocybin (Sil-Oh-Sih-Bin), the Latin and scientific term for magic mushrooms.

Many noted cannabis professionals and advocates attended.

Mukherji won the June Democratic primary recently to become a State Senator following the November election.

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