When voters in the city of Denver narrowly passed an initiative to decriminalize the possession and use of psilocybin mushrooms for adults aged 21 and up it sparked the debate in all corners of the country and the city of Oakland followed suit just one month later.
Decriminalization is not legalization but these progressive moves did make shrooms the lowest priority crime for law enforcement in these cities, prohibiting prosecutors from spending any resources to go after personal stashes of the age-old psychedelic.
The fact of the matter is, the success of these initiatives signals something much more than avoiding arrest. In Denver, for example, only 11 psilocybin-related cases made it to trial. Yes, putting an end to that nonsense is certainly worth celebrating, but advocates for plant-based psychedelics and other alternative forms of natural medicine feel that the bigger victories are still to come.
There is a larger initiative afoot in California that, if passed as written, would expand the decrim statute now in place in Oakland statewide. Similar efforts are underway in Oregon, as well as on the east coast in Pennsylvania and Vermont. This rapidly growing movement signals a cultural desire to get back to our roots, advocates say, and set aside synthetic pills and their multitude of side effects for nature-based options.
It is estimated that as many as 16,000,000 Americans suffer from depression, and worse yet, roughly 33% of them are “treatment resistant”. Those treatments, however, have traditionally been the dangerous prescription pills and/or misguided therapy sessions that have borne few success stories, and in many cases only set the depression in deeper. Yet, in its limited research so far, psilocybin has proven to be effective in easing end-of-life anxiety and depression. Studies conducted at well-respected universities such as Johns Hopkins, NYU, and UCLA have time and again concluded that many patients experienced a notable decrease in their depression and anxiety, and other reported that those metal conditions had vanished completely. Rolling Stone reports that the subjects of these psilocybin-laced experiments considered their trips “among the most meaningful experiences of their lives, alongside events like the birth of a first child.”
But this long, strange trip did not begin in Denver. Last November, the FDA granted a “breakthrough therapy designation” to a UK-based company by the name of Compass Pathways for their ongoing trials into the potential therapeutic use of psilocybin. This marked the first time in our country’s history that our federal government had greenlit a known psychedelic substance like shrooms for a potential pathway to the U.S. medical marketplace.
This move at the highest levels of our government came one year after the same designation was granted for MDMA, essentially the lab-grade version of “Ecstasy”, for use in treating patients suffering from treatment resistant PTSD. This has prompted Rick Doblin, founder of the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), to predict that both substances would be federally legal by 2021.
Is that a good thing?
Some firmly entrenched cannabis advocates are saying it may not be.
As cannabis reform sweeps the nation and as medical and recreational markets continue to mature and become more profitable over time, some of that money is being funneled into organized lobbying efforts in the nation’s capital where influence is often gained with checkbooks rather than with public support or a logical cause. Whether you think we should have so much money flowing through the political system or not is your opinion, but it is the way the system currently operates and the best way to change the system is from within it. These frontline lobbyists are the conduit between Congress and cannabis culture and some of them are sounding an alarm about this new front that has suddenly opened up in the War on Drugs – psychedelics.
Their argument goes something like this:
Every day they meet with skeptical lawmakers hoping to sway them over to the pro-cannabis side of the political aisle. They come armed with facts and figures and are all too often met with hyperbole and bullshit fear mongering such as the legalization of cannabis is a gateway to the legalization of ‘harder drugs’. These latest initiatives surrounding psychedelics only stoke those irrational fears, fanning the flames of doubt in folks whose votes are needed if federal cannabis prohibition is to come to an end. Stay focused, they tell us, until this task is complete.
We have yet to see any of these pro-cannabis activists outwardly oppose psychedelic decriminalization bills, or campaign against their passage, but rather they advise those with a vested interest in legal weed to keep our eyes on the prize.
Do you agree?
Should the cannabis culture be rallying around early-stage legalization efforts for psilocybin, ayahuasca, MDMA, or others?
Or do you feel that cannabis has enough stigma problems without being lumped in with those other substances in the eyes of the powers that be?