The road to the legalization of psychedelics has been a long and arduous one, filled with challenges and victories along the way. While recreational use of psychedelics has been illegal for decades, medical research and therapeutic applications of psychedelics are gradually gaining more acceptance.
As we enter an era of psychedelic renaissance, it is critical to note that the usage of psychedelics is not a novel phenomena. But, in recent years, there has been a determined effort to enhance our scientific understanding of their uses in natural medicine and therapeutic healing.
The current climate of psychedelics is being shaped by a combination of scientific data, social activism, and legal rulings that could potentially lead to greater access and recognition in the near future.
So, what does the road to the legalization (or, at the very least, decriminalization) of psychedelics look like? Let’s dive in.
The History of Psychedelics
First, it is important to understand the history of psychedelics. For thousands of years, the kaleidoscopic path to psychedelic legality has been intrinsically intertwined with human history. According to anthropological sources, humans have been using psychoactive chemicals in the form of plants, fungus, roots, seeds, and even animal secretions for millennia.
From Soma, referenced in ancient Hindu Sanskrit texts; to kykeon used in the Eleusinian Mysteries rites of ancient Greece; to the Mexican cactus peyote; to the sacred mushroom teonanacatl or ololiuhqui used in ceremonies in several Central American Pre-Columbian cultures, including Aztec, Mayan and Olmec; to the South American ayahuasca, these substances were employed in various facets of daily life, including as religious rites, pain relief, hunger suppression, and even to inspire courage.
In comparison to the extensive history of psychedelics, scientific investigation is relatively new. Although there is some debate regarding the catalyst for psychedelic research, there is no denying their rise to popularity in the West during the 1960s. During this time, psychedelic substances such as LSD and psilocybin mushrooms were explored as a means of exploring consciousness and achieving spiritual enlightenment. Many famous figures, including Timothy Leary and Aldous Huxley, experimented with psychedelics and promoted their use as a tool for personal growth. By 1965, there had been over 2,000 published publications involving over 40,000 patients that reported favorable results from various psychedelics.
Despite its popularity, the US government banned psychedelic substances in the late 1960s and classified them as Schedule I drugs along with marijuana and heroin. This classification effectively criminalized the possession and use of psychoactive substances, making it difficult to conduct scientific studies and research into their potential therapeutic benefits. The Controlled Substances Act of 1971 suspended research and classed psychedelics as having “no widely accepted medicinal value and a significant potential for misuse.”
In recent years, however, research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics has become increasingly accepted and approved. Studies have indicated that psychedelics may have the ability to treat a variety of mental health issues and help those suffering from depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders.
Social Activism for Psychedelics Legalization
In addition to advances in scientific research, social activism has played an important role in recent years in advocating for greater access to psychedelics for research and therapeutic purposes. Organizations like MAPS (the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) have been at the forefront of this movement. MAPS works to reduce the stigma associated with psychedelics and to make them more accessible to researchers and therapists. They have also worked to secure FDA approval for the first clinical trial to research MDMA-assisted psychotherapy as a possible treatment for PTSD.
Additionally, MAPS has taken legal steps to enable individuals to receive therapeutic use of psychedelics through programs like the New Mexico Medical Program for the Therapeutic Use of Psychedelic Substances. In addition to MAPS, other organizations, such as the Heffter Research Institute, have also been actively pushing for the acceptance and recognition of psychedelics for research and therapeutic uses. Through the continued efforts of these organizations, the public has become increasingly aware of the potential benefits of psychedelics and is now better informed about their potential therapeutic value.
Through their advocacy efforts, these organizations have provided a platform for individuals to speak up about the potential benefits of psychedelics and has helped to catalyze breakthroughs in research around their safety and therapeutic value. By reducing the stigma associated with psychedelics and making them more accessible for study, social activism and organizations like MAPS, have helped advance a growing field that could potentially revolutionize the way mental health care is approached.
Furthermore, ballot initiatives to legalize psychedelic drugs for medicinal purposes have been put forward in several US states, resulting in the legalization of psilocybin-assisted therapy in Oregon in 2020.
The Legal System and Psychedelics
Finally, the legal system has also been instrumental in easing restrictions on psychedelic use. In recent years, the legal system has played an important role in making psychedelics more accessible for research and therapeutic purposes. For example, in 2009, the FDA approved a clinical trial to investigate the safety and efficacy of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy as a potential treatment for PTSD. This move by the FDA helped to open up opportunities for further research on the potential therapeutic benefits of psychedelics.
Additionally, several countries, such as Canada, have taken strides to decriminalize psychedelics and make them more accessible for therapeutic uses. In some places, psychedelic therapy is now legally available under physician supervision, which has helped to make these treatments more accessible to those in need of mental health care. These efforts are helping to shape the legal landscape surrounding psychedelics, making them more accessible and paving the way for potential breakthroughs in the field of psychedelic-assisted therapies.
In 2019, an appeals court overturned the criminalization of ayahuasca in the United States, ruling that a religious organization was allowed to use the psychedelic brew for ceremonies. This ruling was seen as a major victory for advocates and researchers of psychedelic therapies, as it opened the door for further research and development into the therapeutic and spiritual uses of psychedelics.
The Current Climate of Psychedelics Legalization
The current climate surrounding the legal status of psychedelics is an ever-changing one, as more and more states and countries adopt policies for decriminalization or legalization of psychedelics for research and therapeutic purposes. Countries such as Canada and the Netherlands have taken significant steps to legalize psychedelics for therapeutic use.
Meanwhile, in the United States, several states are actively pursuing legislation to decriminalize or legalize psychedelics for therapeutic purposes. The future of psychedelics legalization is optimistic, as more countries and states push for a greater understanding of their therapeutic potential and work to create policy around their use. There is also the potential for psychedelic research to move into the mainstream, as more institutions and organizations support further study into the safety and efficacy of psychedelics for therapeutic purposes. With continued advocacy, education, and research, psychedelics could potentially become an accepted form of treatment for mental health conditions in the near future.
The current climate of psychedelics is the result of a combination of scientific, social, and legal developments, laying the groundwork for greater accessibility and recognition in the near future. With the right regulations and education in place, psychedelics could be a powerful tool for treating mental health issues, unlocking new possibilities for personal growth, and promoting spiritual exploration.