October 12th, 2021 at 04:00 pm
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Now that cannabis is legal in some form in most of the U.S., alternative health advocates are looking to reform laws banning psychedelics. These misunderstood substances have moved away from their reputation as party drugs and are now enjoying recognition for their beneficial therapeutic effects. Across the nation successful efforts are underway to give everyone access to these life-changing chemicals.
Near the end of last month, billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk told the crowd at CodeCon that, “People should be open to psychedelics. A lot of people making laws are kind of from a different era. So I think, as the new generation gets into political power, I think we will see greater receptivity to the benefits of psychedelics.”
His comment is representative of an attitude that is growing in the tech and business world and is starting to bleed out into the rest of society—particularly into politics. What’s interesting to note is that the psychedelic legalization movement seems to be making headway at a much faster pace than cannabis legalization efforts, even though there is much less fanfare around the subject. Over the last few years—especially these last months—psychedelic law reform has been picking up speed, and states and municipalities are beginning to change their policies.
Last week Seattle, Wash., became the largest city in the U.S. to decriminalize a number of natural psychedelic drugs (also known as “entheogens”). The City Council voted unanimously to allow citizens to use psilocybin mushrooms, non-peyote-derived mescaline, ibogaine, ayahuasca and other entheogens for personal reasons without fearing arrest. According to the city’s resolution, the list of psychedelics that were decriminalized includes “any living, fresh, dried or processed plant or fungal material … that may contain currently scheduled or analog psychoactive indolamines, tryptamines or phenethylamines.” Peyote was excluded because the plant is culturally significant, ecologically vulnerable and in danger of being over-harvested.
The resolution orders police to deprioritize the investigation and arrest of people in possession of these drugs if they are involved in “entheogen-related activities, including but not limited to the cultivation of entheogens for use in religious, spiritual, healing or personal growth practices and the sharing of entheogens with co-practitioners.” The resolution says these cases should be “among the City of Seattle’s lowest enforcement priorities” and requests that the police department codify a policy to refrain from detaining, arresting or confiscating entheogens from citizens suspected of violating the law.
The first city to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms was Denver, Colo. A city ordinance to “deprioritize, to the greatest extent possible” the prosecution of individuals using magic mushrooms was approved in 2019. The news was a windfall for advocates and led to a number of cities across the country enacting similar policies. Most went even further and decriminalized other psychedelics along with psilocybin.
In March a Washington D.C. initiative went into effect that similarly decriminalized natural psychedelics including magic mushrooms, ayahuasca and mescaline by making arrests and prosecution for possession the lowest priority for police. Advocate group the Plant Medicine Coalition has been pushing for further legislation that would protect users from being fired or losing their children based on their entheogen-related activities. The coalition has also pressed for police training “to safely assist individuals who may be under the influence of psychedelics,” a radical policy that would impact the rest of the nation.
In the meantime Oregon is blazing the trail. Last year it became the first state to outright legalize psilocybin. Measure 109 allows adults over 21 to use magic mushrooms under the supervision of a licensed therapist as part of a treatment plan.
Last week Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) turned a few heads when he announced that he plans on bringing the psychedelic movement to Capitol Hill. “I want to introduce the results of our work in Oregon and around the country, and I would like your center to be able to help raise awareness on Capitol Hill at this critical time in drug reform to help the federal government catch up to where the rest of America is,” he said during a psychedelics symposium.
This great push is being fueled by a blast of interest in the therapeutic benefits of entheogens. Thanks to the deep pocket of tech oligarchs looking to improve themselves and their businesses, researchers have been able to learn a lot about these drugs in the last decade.
Psilocybin mushrooms and MDMA in particular have shown promise as cutting edge treatments for those suffering from PTSD and depression. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave psilocybin mushrooms the designation of “breakthrough therapy” in 2018 and 2019—both designations were granted because of the results of studies looking at magic mushrooms for treatment-resistant depression.
Entheogens in New Mexico
For many years New Mexico was the only state that allowed for the personal cultivation of psilocybin mushrooms. It was an out-in-the-open secret that went undetected by many psychedelic advocates. Thanks to an appellate court decision in 2005, growing and consuming fresh psilocybin mushrooms has been legal in New Mexico for over 15 years. The court ruled that as long as the mushrooms weren’t processed in any way—including dried—and as long as they weren’t sold or shared, growing them did not meet the state’s definition of “manufacturing” drugs.
It’s an interesting tidbit to note, but it doesn’t fully meet the demands of psychedelic advocates. Now that adult-use cannabis has been legalized and producers are revving up to start retail sales, it’s time for lawmakers to turn their attention to entheogenic substances. There is a growing and undeniable body of research supporting the therapeutic benefits of these misunderstood and maligned drugs that must be addressed—particularly in this age of mass depression and anxiety.