Possessing small amounts of psilocybin mushrooms can no longer result in a multiyear prison sentence in New Jersey, after Gov. Phil Murphy (D) on Thursday signed a bill that makes New Jersey the latest state in recent months to ease legal penalties for the psychedelic drug.
Passed by New Jersey legislators last year, the bill deems possessing up to one ounce of psilocybin — the active ingredient in so-called “magic mushrooms” — a disorderly persons offense, which carries no more than a $1,000 fine or a 6-month jail term.
The state had previously grouped psilocybin with drugs like cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, all of which carry up to five years in prison and $25,000 in fines.
New Jersey’s push comes three months after Oregon voters passed a ballot measure to become the first state to decriminalize mushrooms, though Oregon went a step further and started the process of fully legalizing the drug for medicinal use (the drug is still deemed illegal at the federal level).
Several U.S. cities have passed ordinances either decriminalizing magic mushrooms or making them low priorities for law enforcement in recent years, including Washington, D.C., Santa Cruz, Calif., Denver, Colo., and Somerville, Mass.
The federal government first banned psychedelic mushrooms in 1970, aiming to stop the drug’s recreational use. In recent years, advocates have pushed for the drug to be decriminalized or legalized altogether: They point to some research suggesting it could help treat depression, and they argue the drug is not particularly addictive and shouldn’t be a priority for law enforcement. Meanwhile, others warn that the drug is still poorly understood and argue more research is needed before permitting its widespread use.
Despite loosening penalties for mushrooms, New Jersey’s efforts to legalize recreational marijuana have remained stalled for months. Voters in the state passed a ballot initiative legalizing marijuana in November, but state lawmakers are still negotiating the finer points of the legalization push, leaving its status in limbo.
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