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Connecticut Man Busted with $8.5M Worth of Shrooms

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A Burlington, Connecticut man was busted for allegedly growing psilocybin mushrooms in a large, commercial-style factory with an estimated $8.5 million in street value. Weston Soule, 21, is accused of allegedly growing millions’ worth of psilocybin mushrooms. He was charged with possession with intent to sell narcotics and the operating of a drug factory.

An unidentified person snitched out Soule, police said. Agents from the DEA Hartford Task force and state police detectives received a tip that suggested a man was operating a clandestine psilocybin mushroom growing operation at a home on Lyon Road.

WFSB Hartford reported that law enforcement agents descended upon Soule’s home on Thursday morning. Once there, authorities said they talked to Soule and saw ventilation equipment throughout the residence that are consistent with psilocybin operations.

Soule led investigators to a detached garage on his property and police found his large mushroom growing operation, where Soule claimed he was simply growing a different type of mushroom.

When Soule initially denied police entry to his home, police submitted a search warrant to New Britain Superior Court, which was granted. Once the search warrant was approved, investigators said they found a large “mushroom factory” with multilevel racks neatly lined up with substrates, inoculation chambers, grains, nutrients, and other supplies. The grow factory contained psilocybin mushrooms in various stages of growth, with an estimated total street value of $8.5 million.

Soule was taken into custody at the scene and transported to state police headquarters in Litchfield, Connecticut where he was processed and charged. Neighbors say a series of factors indicated a grow operation was taking place.

“They were running air conditioners when it was a cold day which didn’t seem right. They had air conditioners in the top windows and front of the house. You also saw more cars there during the day which made it seem like a place of employment rather than someone sleeping there at night,” an eyewitness neighbor told WFSB Hartford.

UNH Criminal Justice Professor and retired FBI agent Kenneth Gray says that’s a usual sign in this operation. “In a marijuana grow house, the house is usually filled with lamps. In this case, mushrooms don’t need a lot of lamps, instead, they need a lot of ventilation,” Gray said.

Soule was held in jail on a $250,000 cash/surety bond and was scheduled to appear for arraignment at New Britain Superior Court on Friday.

Psilocybin Reform in Connecticut

People in Connecticut are also attempting to regulate the cultivation of it legally. In 2021, Dr. Bronner’s pushed for psilocybin reform in Connecticut. New Approach PAC, a lobbyist group, funded $14,000 in 2021 to local firm Grossman Solutions to promote drug policy reform in Connecticut. Dr. Bronner’s is among New Approach’s biggest donors.

CT Insider reported that a task force in Connecticut is examining the efficacy of psilocybin mushrooms for use in therapeutic settings. House Bill 6296, sponsored by Representative Josh Elliot and four other representatives, created a task force responsible for studying the efficacy of psilocybin for a variety of conditions—a key step in legalizing psilocybin for therapeutic purposes. Grossman Solutions will help New Approach engage with Connecticut’s psilocybin task force.

CEO David Bronner is the grandson of company founder Emil Bronner. He said his goal is to free psychedelics, specifically legalization of psilocybin for therapeutic purposes, adding it’s exactly what his grandfather would have done. “The passion of my grandfather was to unite spaceship earth,” Bronner said. “We honor that legacy in different ways,” among them “integration of psychedelic healing in medicine and therapy.” Bronner also said that he believes “psychedelic medicine can really help people heal and wake up, and grapple with pressing problems.”

A pilot program on the benefits of synthetic psilocybin for mental health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is launching soon at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. 

A study cohort will consist of 50 patients, mostly veterans and first responders, who are with mental health concerns like depression and addiction. Participants will take 25 mg of synthetic psilocybin, and after the psychedelic effects wind down, they will discuss issues and progress (or lack thereof) with trained therapists.

Connecticut Post reports that the goal is to fulfill the need for state data that has been lacking, according to state Rep. Michelle Cook (D-Torrington). “We need to have the data to show that there is documented proof of what that therapy does,” Cook said. “We know that it has some incredible outcomes when it is done right, when it’s done by people that are trained in how to use it for treatment of PTSD and so forth.”

Cases like Soule’s would disappear if people in Connecticut gained access to regulated psilocybin as reform bills make their way through legislation.

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