Public Comments for: HB898 - Hallucinogens or psychoactive substances; possession, civil penalty.
Last Name: Johnson Locality: James City County

I do not support any bills that criminalize folks

Last Name: Kipley Organization: Virginia is for Children Locality: Powhatan

Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, and committee members: Thank you for the opportunity to comment on HB 16 and thank you, Delegate Fowler, for your work updating our state’s Safe Haven law. We, Virginia is for Children (an advocacy group for the lives of vulnerable children in our state), are following the Safe Haven law efforts and are fully supportive of the extension to thirty days of age for infant relinquishment. This is a reasonable, standard amount of time for a mom/parent to conclude that they cannot parent their baby OR, change their mind and decide they can parent their baby. Such a significant, life-altering decision does not need to be rushed or hurried. We know that moms who have just given birth, especially those who are alone, need time to recover physically and emotionally. Moms can experience postpartum depression after the birth of child, this typically occurs within the first 1-3 weeks after birth, parents can be in desperate situations- experiencing homelessness, abuse, addiction and need time to get help. Twenty-one states are now at thirty days for age of relinquishment. Utah just extended their law to thirty days in February, 2020 and approved funding for safe haven law awareness. Extending this law can potentially save more infants from abuse, neglect, and abandonment and give parents the time they need to make important decisions. We hope the committee will approve the extension and consider providing state funding for safe haven law awareness and promotion of safe haven locations or “safe baby sites”. Not enough parents are informed about the law’s existence and the process involved. Our group is especially interested in a state funded, DSS promoted, 24-hour confidential, crisis hotline that would provide intervention and support for women in crisis pregnancies and struggling parents, so that they can get the help they need to parent their baby. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and committee members for your time and for the opportunity to voice our support of this bill. Sincerely, Leah Kipley VA is for Children

Last Name: Frederick Locality: Richmond

My name is Dr. Jon R. Frederick, MD. I am a veteran of the United States Navy, a board-certified physician in Emergency Medicine, and for the past two and a half years the owner and medical director of a ketamine infusion clinic. As a provider of ketamine infusions, I have administered approximately 1,750 treatments to those suffering from such treatment-resistant conditions as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and many other concomitant physical and mental health maladies. For the overwhelming majority of my patients, no other therapy, medication, or intervention has been able to provide them with any meaningful relief and ketamine has been lifesaving. Ketamine is unique in that it is the only currently legal ‘psychedelic’ in the United States. Initially FDA approved in 1970 for the purpose of anesthesia, it was discovered to have potent antidepressant effects in the early 2000s. It has been the subject of thousands of research papers, consistently validating it as the most effective treatment option for many conditions. In addition, it has an unparalleled safety profile with little to no drug interactions and no documented long-term sequelae of use when used in a clinically supervised manner. The increased use and acceptance of ketamine as a rapidly effective treatment is creating a pathway to other psychedelic medications. We are entering into a renaissance of mental health treatment as many psychedelic drugs and their derivatives are being studied. Currently, there are hundreds of clinical trials going on evaluating these medicines for applications ranging from mental health diagnoses to substance use disorders to neurodegenerative conditions. Last year, a seminal study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine comparing psilocybin (the compound responsible for the psychedelic properties of some mushrooms) to a traditional antidepressant. They concluded just two doses of psilocybin were as good as weeks of continued use of the antidepressant for treating depression. In many ways, psilocybin was actually superior to the antidepressant, but due to methodological limitations they could not generalize that data. In another groundbreaking area of study, MDMA for PTSD recently concluded phase 3 clinical trials. The preliminary data they have released demonstrated that 67% of the participants had essentially been cured of their PTSD, no longer meeting diagnostic criteria. An additional 21% had a clinically meaningful reduction of their PTSD symptoms. The expectation is this medicine will become FDA approved next year. The undeniable truth of the matter is these compounds are showing great promise in areas of medicine where we have very little to offer. Another truth is they are demonstrably safe and pose very little potential for dependence or abuse. Among a ranking of all potential drugs of abuse, psychedelics rank last in propensity to cause harm to users and others. We are existing in an era of unprecedented uncertainty, isolation, and disconnection. As a society, we are struggling with crises of addiction, burn out, and overall mental health. We are in dire need of alternative treatments, because the status quo is not working. It is within this context that I believe it is safe and appropriate to decriminalize these compounds.

Last Name: Chentsova Locality: Williamsburg

TESTIMONY REGARDING HOUSE BILL 898 My name is Victoria Chentsova and I am a graduate student and active community member residing in Williamsburg, Virginia. I am writing this testimony in favor of House Bill No. 898 to decriminalize naturally occurring hallucinogens or psychoactive substances. This Bill No.898 proposes amendments that have a multitude of implications benefiting the community at large, two of which I would like to focus on today. First, Bill No.898 represents an important step in addressing the needs, safety, and prosperity of Virginia residents as it would reverse the historical practice of unfair penalization of individuals possessing this substance. The criminalization of possession of these substances, substances that are naturally derived and therefore could easily be found in nature, is an act against nature itself. That an individual could go foraging and be sentenced with a felony for possession a plant they unknowingly picked up is cruel and unfair. Further the possession and use of many of these substances in the United States has historical roots in indigenous medicines and spiritual practices promoting well-being. Criminalizing possession of these goods when they are naturally derived, have proven health benefits, and little to no identified negative externalities puts many stand up and model citizens in a position where they could just as well be charged with a felony for practices that keep them connected to their culture or in good mental health. This mental health piece leads to the next point. Second, this Bill No.898 provides an opportunity for advancements in psychological science research and mental health care in the state of Virginia. More recently, Psychedelics research has gained exponential traction in the last five years as psychological and medical research demonstrates its practical application. Research out of reputable institutions in the US such as Johns Hopkins University or Virginia's own Virginia Commonwealth University, along with top research institutions abroad, has demonstrated that these substances can aid addiction therapies, support PTSD treatments, and serve as a naturally-derived support for symptoms of clinical depression and anxiety. With demonstrated low addictive potential, and many proven health benefits, amongst many more potential benefits under trial, these substance demonstrate high promise in supporting well-being. Though the above is just a scratch in the surface of how this bill could improve the lives of Virginians and further set a standard that could motivate other states to do the same, these reasons alone should be beyond sufficient to see why this bill needs to be passed. I am confident in the counsel and the state to make the right decision on this and enable Virginias to reconnect with in the power this bill holds and encourage you importance of this bill being passed and when I say that I am not alone this bill is going to change the lives of many people for the beetI am writing this testimony in favor of House Bill No. 898 to decriminalize naturally occurring hallucinogens or psychoactive substances. Thank you for your continuous hard work to create a better Virginia.

Last Name: Burrington Organization: Decriminalize Nature Locality: Richmond

I want to contribute my feelings and thoughts as it relates to HB898 and HB262 with the hopes of the VA Legislature to seriously consider passing these Bills and while also becoming aware of ALL the health and mental BENEFITS that plant-based medicines, specifically Psilocybin, have on the human mental and physical body. I am a Veteran, spent 3 years serving with 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment in Ft. Benning, GA. I have not, nor am I currently, experiencing any type of depression or trauma. However, after three years of becoming familiar with Psilocybin, and using it in a controlled, ceremonial setting, I have experienced numerous positive changes in my life! Changes that I really wasn't even aware I had to make. These changes included areas of my life such as parenting, marriage, work, personal, and religious - I lost 43 pounds and am in tremendous shape at age 53 and my health has NEVER been better because I WANTED to make changes to improve my overall health and well-being. The changes I made in my life were decisions I made from my HEART. Psilocybin has a way of transforming people into what our Higher Power had intended us to be and live...Strong, loving, caring humans that express love and compassion for others through our HEART! In my experience, and many others I associate with, have had profound POSITIVE changes in our lives due to having just ONE Psilocybin experience. PLEASE do NOT let this opportunity to bring peace, healing, and comfort to so MANY people here in our great State of Virginia, that truly are suffering and have found that traditional medicines just do not work. Pass HB898 and HB262 quickly and PLEASE let the results and case studies speak for themselves. Thank you for listening! Dave B.

Last Name: Boothby Locality: Richmond

I work for the largest PR firm in America that represents both Cannabis and Psychedelic companies. I truly believe in the power of plant medicine to heal because of my own experiences with cannabis, mushrooms and Ayahuasca. These plants have helped me heal my childhood trauma, forgive myself and those who have hurt me in the past, and live a more peaceful life. I think these plants have been decriminalized unfairly and can help more than most psychiatric medicines that are prescribed to Americans everyday. Many psychicatric drugs are just pain killers. They can help in a pinch and over the short term, but they don't provide long-lasting relief and true healing. They don't because they're not designed to. Plant medicine helps patients address the root causes of mental illness and trauma, and I believe they should be legalized and studied more, so that more Americans can live a life of peace and prosperity.

Last Name: Shell Locality: North Dinwiddie

Hello, I am writing in support of HB898. Truly, I would rather constituents be able to grow, consume, and disperse amongst themselves hallucinogens or psychoactive substances without ANY persecution. However, I feel HB 898 is a step in the right direction to desensitize while enlightening the Commonwealth of the immense healing potential of these naturally occurring medicines. The “research”I present is my own personal experience with psilocybin. I am diagnosed with PTSD as well mixed anxiety and depressive disorder due to 12 years of sexual trauma experienced daily in my adult life. I’ve only been free from this sexual torture for five years, and the mental illnesses accrued from those experiences are almost as severe as the acts themselves. Mental illness turned me into a completely different person. Nightmares every. single. night. I was always looking over my shoulder, getting frightened at the slightest noise. I began to engage in self harm, lost interest in every aspect of my life, withdrew from family and friends, had unusual bursts of anger, manic attitude episodes, began to literally HATE everything and everyone, and my short term memory suffered greatly. I had been taking the highest dose of Zoloft, 200mg, for over 10 years to cope, and each year, symptoms of PTSD, anxiety/depression only seemed to strengthen. 2020 proved to be the most difficult year after losing my mother, I had become such a miserable person and loathed my very existence and felt trapped in my mind. It’s difficult to explain it I felt like I was drowning in my brain and it FELT like it needed rewiring. No one wanted to be around me, especially me. Imagine getting so sick of YOU but you cannot escape yourself. After reaching out to expensive drs that didn’t care and just wanted to put me on another pill, finding expensive ketamine treatment that shows promise but insurance won’t cover it, expensive, uncaring psychiatrists that were too booked up to take on anyone else, I decided to find my own solution; One that can be obtained without insurance, or expensive hypocritical/misinformed doctors. It didn’t take long for me to find so much promising research on psilocybin. I began microdosing (0.1 g)with psilocybin twice a day and my quality of life has improved greatly. My nightmares are gone, my fear and anxiety, dare I say: gone! My overall ability to mentally function in a way I couldn’t before; it’s just given me my life back, but even better than it was before. It’s unexplainable; you can FEEL the healing change. I was on the verge of losing it all just because of mental illness and there is no help out there, and if you do find it, it comes with a price tag you cannot afford. (When a patient uses nature to medicate, they can grow their own!) It’s a CRIME against humanity that NATURE is illegal, especially when the HEALING substances of nature are the ones that are illegal, not the poisonous deadly ones. With mental illness being such a struggle for so many, and scarce access to any care, it makes no sense to not allow communities to heal themselves safely and naturally. The damages created by the increasing amount of untreated mental illnesses in Virginia, by far EXCEEDS whatever “damage” perceived by decriminalizing nature. Thank you C Shell

Last Name: Robinson Organization: Decriminalize Nature Locality: Midlothian

I tried to submit a testimony and it wouldnt accept it so now I have to have a shorter testimony. It said I had too many words, I may have written a bit harshly at the end. I appologize, I'm frustrated. I stay up day and night wondering how part of the world still believes these plants are evil. I'm a recovered Addict. I'm also an ex con. I grew up greatly affected by the system. My father was an alcoholic Vietnam vet who dedicated much of his life to work for the government. My mother I don't know much about, she was loving. She struggled with heroine addiction. I was an "addict" for 6 years. Most of my childhood was surrounded by trauma and drugs. I grew up eminating that behavior to cope with their death and the loss of my childhood. I felt so alone for so long. I come from a really poor family. Deeply embedded in trauma. Homeless. Isolated. Hungry. I'm currently 23, 3 years out of jail. Black belt in martial arts/combative training. Creating an adult program self defense program through the form that me and my team have created that's recognized on a professional level. I'm a leader of a community movement. I'm helping build two different organizations, and one of my own. I've dedicated my life to studying these plants and movement philosophy. What I will say is that with out these plants, I cannot say with certainty I would have had the  guidance or complete will power to take the path I am now walking. The spirits within these plants have taught me that our existence with nature is deeply rooted and dependent upon the relationship with our  enviroment and our community. Right before I became homeless when I was 19, I had an experience with DMT (dimethyltryptamine). It created this feeling, like I belonged. Like I was at home, no matter where I was at. No matter where I may travel, this Earth, this cosmos is my home. And I can always seek refuge in her. She told to not be afraid to let go. Let go of what once was, and what is to be. To rest assure in the now. In her all mighty power. At this point, I've consumed most of the "poisonous/toxic/deadly/demonized" plants that have been strategically put into the shadows to strip us of our roots. I know most of the information you find on these plants are lies that were fabricated for corporate/political interest. Lets not forget the indigenous people who were slaughtered protecting the rights to these plants and lands they come from. I'm a fully functional human being now who cares and gives back to the community. I haven't craved opioids for about the amount of time I've invested into studying these plants. We're tired of the deceit. Can we stop getting bread crumbs and just start getting these bills passed so we can all move on with our lives. Thank you.

Last Name: Wells-Perritt Locality: Virginia Beach

I've been a professional in the healing arts for 31 years. A licensed massage therapist and registered yoga instructor, I've owned a holistic wellness center in Virginia Beach for 26 years. I know people, including military veterans, who spent years suffering from trauma related mental illnesses and addictions, and were unable to find any form of lasting relief from their symptoms until they experienced the healing power of plant medicines. I believe strongly that these plant medicines must be decriminalized. People who are suffering shouldn't be prevented from, or punished for, obtaining medicines that can help them recover from debilitating depression, anxiety, and other trauma related mental conditions.

Last Name: Paris Organization: Veterans abd anyone else suffering Locality: Chesterfield

Please decriminalize plants. God gave us nature and it's HEALS. There are no physical withdrawal symptoms, like pharmaceutical meds. Plant doses have the ability to be customized to each patient. A small micro dose(1/8tsp) has been shown to ease anxiety, depression, mental anguish, gives energy and helps with physical pain. If you haven't tried it, talk to someone who has. Someone who has used it with great success. Please and thank for you service.

Last Name: Ingrodi Locality: Fredericksburg

In addition, I believe it would be extremely beneficial for these substances to be decriminalized. One should not have to hide or disclose trying to better themselves. These medicines have the power to save lives and should by no means be outlawed. I am lucky to have moved and be in a place of decriminalization, however, I will do anything I can to support my home state, Virginia, and it’s undergoing of decriminalization.

Last Name: Ingrodi Locality: Fredericksburg

The impact of psilocybin mushrooms on mental health. Psilocybin mushrooms along with other psychoactive plant medicines have been used since ancient times for healing. Scientifically, we now have evidence of why these substances were so significant in the history of medicine. First off, psilocybin acts on the frontal cortex, increasing connections between neurons. This phenomena is what allows the mind to adapt and change, also know as plasticity. Increased plasticity in the brain is extremely helpful for therapeutic purposes, because you can more comfortably work through and change behavioral issues. It has been quite a breakthrough for those struggling with addiction. On top of this, psilocybin produces neurogenesis, the production of new brain cell growth. This amazing ability can help regrow and restore the brain. On a personal level, these medicines have helped me overcome a great deal of issues. Having a past addiction, it was exactly what I needed to overcome the chemical imbalance that was keeping me craving those harmful substances. Mental health was another factor, as I struggled with severe depression. The plant medicine changed my mind both physically and metaphysically. These entheogenic plants are the catalyst for peace of mind and well-being. If we have the freedom to safety partake in these substances, we can become whole and more equipped for life, thus becoming better members to our society.

Last Name: Kennedy Locality: Richmond City

Someone I know and care about quite a bit has struggled with mental health for as long as they can remember. They have been diagnosed with ADHD, anxiety, and treatment resistant depression. Pharmaceutical antidepressants simply do not work for them. For decades, they kept trying new ones, hoping that the newest prescription would bring relief. They did not realize that the nature of "treatment resistant depression" meant that it was extremely unlikely for a pharmaceutical antidepressant to ever work for them. While they were searching for relief, the side effects they experienced include worsening depression, weight gain, "brain fog", loss of libido, "brain zaps", insomnia, and others. They felt broken. They stumbled upon the idea of microdosing, and it gave them hope. Their significant other learned how to cultivate mushrooms, and grew some just for them. This was not a risk that their significant other undertook lightly. Their significant other’s career would most definitely be jeopardized if this were found out. Within a few weeks of beginning to microdose these mushrooms, they began to feel much better. Their significant other noticed that they started laughing and enjoying life more--even on the days when they didn't microdose. Their psychiatrist says that he cannot "officially" condone their use of psilocybin because it's against the law. However, "off the record" he fully supports them taking psilocybin. Aside from the fact that these mushrooms have lifted their depression without any bothersome side effects, one of the most beautiful things about their experience is that their significant other cultivated the medicine that has allowed them to feel joy again. They watched their significant other lovingly grow, dry, grind, and encapsulate a healing gift from nature. I want others who are suffering to be able to experience the healing that my loved one has, without the fear of criminal repercussions. I fully support the decriminalization of psilocybin and other “entheogenic” substances. Individuals should have the freedom to grow/gift/gather without government interference, and without lining the pockets of corporations. My hope is that Virginia will simply decriminalize psilocybin (as well as peyote, ibogaine, and psilocyn) and not make the same mistakes that Virginia has made with regard to cannabis. Healing from nature should once again be accessible to all.

End of Comments