Millions of dollars of psychedelic mushrooms seized from home

Westen Soule, 21, charged with operating a drug factory and possession with intent to sell and distribute narcotics

Andrea Blanco
Tuesday 07 November 2023 22:25 GMT

Related story: Alaska Airlines pilot was on magic mushrooms

Connecticut authorities have seized $8.5 million worth of psychedelic mushrooms stored in dozens of dog-food-size bags at a rural home.

Westen Soule, 21, has been charged with operating a drug factory and possession with intent to sell and distribute narcotics following the raid in which federal, state and local members of a special drug task force participated. Law enforcement was tipped off about the staggering amount of drugs in the Burlington property.

After arriving at the psilocybin mushroom growing operation, the force said they saw ventilation equipment on the home that was consistent with items used in “clandestine laboratories.” The suspect showed authorities a detached garage where police said they saw a large mushroom growing operation but denied that the mushrooms were illegal.

Mr Soule reportedly later declined to consent to a search of the home. After obtaining a search warrant, the task force found what they called psilocybin-containing mushrooms in various stages of growth. State police released photos showing dozens of bags allegedly containing mushrooms lined up outside the home as well as stacked on metal shelving throughout the home’s interior.

The man eventually admitted that “the mushrooms were in fact psilocybin, which is a Schedule 1 controlled substance,” state police said in a statement. “A Schedule 1 controlled substance is defined as drugs, substances and chemicals that are not currently accepted for medical use and have a high potential for abuse.”

Mr Soule posted $250,000 bail and was ordered to appear in state court in New Britain on 16 November.

The bust came as two states and several cities in the US have decriminalised psychedelic mushrooms and their active ingredient, psilocybin, which along with other psychedelics have emerged as an alternative treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental illnesses.

This photo, released by the Connecticut State Police, shows psychedelic mushrooms in a home in Burlington, CT, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023. Federal, state and local authorities allege they found a clandestine mushroom-growing factory, containing psilocybin mushrooms in various stages of growth, with an estimated total street value of $8,500,000.

Oregon voters approved decriminalising small amounts of psychedelics in 2020 and separately were the first to approve the supervised use of psilocybin in a therapeutic setting. Two years later, Colorado residents passed a ballot measure to decriminalise psychedelic mushrooms and to create state-regulated centres where participants can experience the drug under supervision.

About 20 other states have active legislation on changing laws on psychedelic drugs, according to Psychedelic Alpha, a group that tracks such legislation. In Connecticut, an attempt this year to decriminalise possession of small amounts of psilocybin died in the state Senate.

The federal Food and Drug Administration designated psilocybin as a “breakthrough therapy” for treatment-resistant depression in 2019 and recently published a draft guideline on using psychedelics in clinical trials.

There has also been a shift in public opinion in support of the therapeutic use of psychedelics, including military veterans with trauma and other illnesses.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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