Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey recently signed a psilocybin reform measure that reclassified possession of up to one ounce of psilocybin mushrooms under a disorderly persons’ offense. This reclassification means that persons caught with small amounts of psilocybin will be subject to up to six months in jail, a $1000 fine or both. The offense was previously punishable with fines of up to $15 000 and a penalty of three to five years in jail, and was considered a third-degree crime.
This change puts psilocybin mushroom possession in the state on par with resisting arrest, shoplifting, harassment or simple assault.
Legislators had sent the initiative to the governor in December 2020, after approving it alongside two other cannabis-related bills; one to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana and another to implement the legal cannabis market of the state, which was legalized by New Jersey voters during the November 2020 election.
Originally, the psilocybin reform bill had been introduced as an amendment to the initiative on decriminalization. However, the bill’s supporters converted it into a separate measure after some legislators stated that it was inappropriate to force it into the cannabis legislation.
Sen. Nicholas Scutari, who was the first to introduce the psilocybin amendment, stated that while the mushrooms were still illegal in the state, there was no point in ruining lives for a first offense. He went on to explain that the governor recognized the failed drug war, adding that a felony conviction for the possession of a psychedelic mushroom was an old relic of the drug war.
The governor is yet to sign either of the cannabis bills, primarily because he is against the bills’ lack of penalties for underage possession. To address the governor’s concerns, legislators approved a new measure, under which individuals aged 18 to 20 years old would have to pay a $50 fine for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and a $100 fine for more than an ounce of marijuana.
Last month during his state of the state address, Murphy observed that New Jersey was about to implement cannabis legalization. While the state’s new law on psilocybin doesn’t decriminalize the psychedelic substance, it does revoke criminal penalties for the simple possession of psychedelic substances.
New Jersey is not the only state to follow this path. For instance, a bill introduced in New York recently would levy $50 fines instead of imposing criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of any drug.
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