JANUARY 13, 2023

The Long and Winding Road to Psychedelics Legalization

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The journey towards the legalization of psychedelics has been a lengthy and challenging one, filled with both obstacles and triumphs. While the recreational use of psychedelics has been illegal for years there is growing acceptance of their research and therapeutic applications. 

As we enter an era characterized by a resurgence of interest in psychedelics it is crucial to acknowledge that their usage is not a novel phenomenon. There has been an effort to expand our scientific knowledge of their potential benefits in natural medicine and therapeutic healing. 

The current landscape surrounding psychedelics is being shaped by a combination of findings, social activism and legal decisions that may pave the way for accessibility and recognition in the foreseeable future. 

Now let's explore what lies ahead on the path towards legalizing or at least decriminalizing psychedelics.

Understanding the Historical Context

To grasp the journey towards legality it's important to delve into its historical roots. For thousands of years humans have had a connection with substances derived from plants, fungi, roots, seeds and even animal secretions – as evidenced by anthropological sources. For instance, Soma was mentioned in Hindu Sanskrit texts, the Eleusinian Mysteries in Greece made use of kykeon and the Mexican cactus peyote held significance. Furthermore, Central American Pre-Columbian cultures like the Aztec, Mayan and Olmec used mushrooms like teonanacatl or ololiuhqui in their ceremonies. Additionally, ayahuasca from South America played a role in aspects of life such as religious rituals, pain relief, hunger suppression and even inspiring courage. 

Scientific investigations into psychedelics are relatively recent when compared to their usage. While there is some debate about what sparked research it is undeniable that they gained popularity in the Western world during the 1960s. LSD and psilocybin mushrooms were particularly explored during this time as tools for exploring consciousness and achieving enlightenment. Prominent figures like Timothy Leary and Aldous Huxley experimented with psychedelics and advocated for their use as catalysts for growth. By 1965 more than 2,000 published papers involving over 40,000 patients had reported positive outcomes from using various psychedelics. 

Despite their popularity, at the time psychedelic substances were banned by the US government in the 1960s and categorized as Schedule I drugs alongside cannabis and heroin. 

The classification implemented had the effect of making the possession and use of substances illegal which posed challenges, for conducting studies and researching their potential therapeutic benefits. The Controlled Substances Act of 1971 put a halt to research and categorized psychedelics as having “no accepted value and a significant potential for misuse.” 

However recently there has been an increasing acceptance and approval of exploring the potential of psychedelics. Studies have indicated that psychedelics might be effective in treating health issues and providing relief for individuals struggling with depression, anxiety and other mood disorders.

Social Activism and Psychedelics Legalization

Alongside advancements in research social activism has played a role in advocating for broader access to psychedelics specifically for research and therapeutic purposes. Organizations like MAPS (the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) have been at the forefront of this movement. MAPS aims to reduce the stigma surrounding psychedelics while also working towards making them more accessible to researchers and therapists. They have even made progress in obtaining FDA approval for the trial investigating MDMA assisted psychotherapy as a potential treatment option for PTSD. 

Furthermore, MAPS has taken measures to enable individuals to receive use of psychedelics through initiatives such as the New Mexico Medical Program for the Therapeutic Use of Psychedelic Substances. 

Apart, from MAPS, organizations, such as the Heffter Research Institute have actively advocated for the acceptance and recognition of psychedelics in research and therapy. Thanks to their efforts the general public is now more aware of the benefits of psychedelics and has a better understanding of their therapeutic value. 

Through their advocacy work these organizations have provided a platform for individuals to voice the benefits of psychedelics. This has contributed to breakthroughs in research regarding their safety and therapeutic applications. By reducing the stigma associated with psychedelics and promoting accessibility for study, social activism and organizations like MAPS have played a role in advancing this emerging field that could potentially revolutionize mental healthcare approaches. 

Moreover, several US states have seen ballot initiatives aiming to legalize substances for medical purposes. Notably Oregon successfully legalized psilocybin assisted therapy in 2020 through such an initiative.

The Influence of the Legal System on Psychedelics

Finally, it is worth mentioning that the legal system has also played a role in easing restrictions on use. It has been instrumental in making psychedelics more accessible, for research and therapeutic purposes. 

As an example, in 2009 the FDA gave its approval for a trial to explore the safety and effectiveness of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy as a treatment for PTSD. This decision by the FDA played a role in creating opportunities for research on the potential therapeutic advantages of psychedelics. 

Moreover, several countries, including Canada have taken steps towards decriminalizing psychedelics. In some regions psychedelic therapy is now legally available under the supervision of physicians. This development has greatly improved access to these treatments for individuals seeking health care. These initiatives are actively shaping the landscape surrounding psychedelics making them more attainable and paving the way for breakthroughs in psychedelic-assisted therapies. 

In 2019 an appeals court overturned the criminalization of ayahuasca in the United States. The ruling allowed a religious organization to use this brew for ceremonies. The decision was hailed as a triumph, by advocates and researchers of therapies since it opened doors to further exploration and development of both therapeutic and spiritual applications of psychedelics.

Psychedelics Legalization Today

The landscape surrounding the status of psychedelics is constantly evolving. More and more states and countries are adopting policies to decriminalize or legalize psychedelics, for research and therapeutic purposes. Notably countries like Canada and the Netherlands have taken steps in legalizing psychedelics for use. 

In the United States several states are actively working on legislation to decriminalize or legalize psychedelics for medical purposes. The future of psychedelics legalization looks promising as more countries and states strive to understand their benefits and establish guidelines around their usage. Additionally, there is a growing possibility of research gaining mainstream recognition with increased support from institutions and organizations that aim to study their safety and effectiveness in therapy. Through advocacy, education and research efforts there is a chance that psychedelics could become an accepted form of treatment for health conditions in the near future. 

The current climate surrounding psychedelics is shaped by a mix of advancements, social shifts and legal changes that lay the foundation for access and greater acceptance down the road. With regulations in place along with education initiatives psychedelics have the potential to serve as a powerful tool, for addressing mental health issues unlocking personal growth opportunities and fostering spiritual exploration.


  1. Psychedelic Spotlight. "The Road to Psychedelics Legalization." Psychedelic Spotlight. Accessed [January 14, 2023]. [https://psychedelicspotlight.com/road-to-psychedelics-legalization/

  2. CanMar. "Can Psychedelics Lead to Increased Body Positivity?" CanMar. Accessed [January 14, 2023]. [https://canmar.io/can-psychedelics-lead-to-increased-body-positivity/

  3. Bloomberg Opinion. "Psychedelic Drugs Will Follow Pot's Path to Legalization." Bloomberg Opinion. Accessed [January 14, 2023]. [https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2021-05-15/psychedelic-drugs-will-follow-pot-s-path-to-legalization

  4. Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). Accessed [January 14, 2023]. [https://maps.org/homepage/

  5. Heffter Research Institute. Accessed [January 14, 2023]. [https://www.heffter.org/

  6. The Progressive. "Legalizing Psychedelics." The Progressive. Accessed [January 14, 2023]. [https://progressive.org/latest/legalizing-psychedelics-bilter-201231/

  7. The New York Times. "Psychedelic Drug Therapy Finds New Patents." The New York Times. Accessed [January 14, 2023]. [https://www.nytimes.com/2022/10/25/health/psychedelic-drug-therapy-patents.html

  8. Psychedelic Alpha. "Psychedelic Laws Database." Psychedelic Alpha. Accessed [January 14, 2023]. [https://psychedelicalpha.com/data/psychedelic-laws

  9. New Atlas. "Colorado's 'Mile High' Psychedelic Decriminalization." New Atlas. Accessed [January 14, 2023]. [https://newatlas.com/health-wellbeing/psychedelic-decrim-legal-medicalization-colorado-ballot/

Melissa Jane Sydie

Marketing Lead at CanMar

TagsCanadian cannabisCannabisCannabis careersCannabis Culturecannabis communitycannabis globalcbdCannabis JobsCannabis IndustryPsychedelicshempPsychedelics Industrylegalization

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