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It took only a few years for marijuana to gain legality in much of the country. Could the same rapid acceptance be looming for psychedelic drugs?
Starting with Denver in 2019, several cities have decriminalized possession of plant- and fungi-based psychedelics such as psilocybin mushrooms. Then, in November 2020, Oregon became the first state to legalize psilocybin, the psychedelic compound found in "magic mushrooms," for therapeutic use. Voters there approved legal psilocybin by ballot question and also approved a separate measure to legalize possession of all drugs.
And it now appears that California may be poised to follow. On June 1, the California Senate approved a bill that would allow possession and personal use of several psychedelic substances: psilocybin, MDMA, LSD, ketamine, DMT, mescaline, and ibogaine.
It still must get through the California Assembly and then win the signature of Gov. Gavin Newsom, and its political prospects seem to be anyone's guess.
But certainly, the once-unthinkable prospect of legal psychedelic drugs is gaining momentum – much like that of cannabis not all that long ago.
Two forces are mostly responsible for this change:
First, scientific research has been identifying therapeutic uses for psychedelic drugs, particularly psilocybin. This research has progressed to the point where the Food and Drug Administration has granted psilocybin “breakthrough therapy” therapy" status, a designation that gives a green light to speeding up research into its use for “serious conditions.” " Then, in late 2019, John Johns Hopkins University launched the “Center for Psychedelics and Consciousness Research,” to study how psychedelic compounds, including MDMA as well as psilocybin, affect the human brain.
Second, there has been a progressive push to lessen punishment for drug crimes in general.
While they haven't gone as far as the California Senate or the majority of Oregon voters, several states have begun to sniff out the idea of psychedelic legalization.
Most of them are not proposing legalization or decriminalization quite yet; instead, they are calling for “studies” to determine what the next steps might be.
Here is a sampling of what some states are doing on that front:
Meanwhile, at least two other states have taken steps to reduce the penalties for possession of psychedelics. In February, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill lowering the penalties for possession of up to one ounce of mushrooms in that state. And in Maine, the House of Representatives on June 17 followed the example set by Oregon voters and approved a bill to decriminalize possession of all currently illicit drugs. That measure goes next to the state Senate.
While these governmental measures are popping up and moving forward, investors – particularly those who remember how cannabis became profitable – are taking notice. A new study, released in early June, predicted that a new “psychedelics sector” could bring in a whopping $6.85 billion by 2027.
Will America be able to legally “Tune in, turn out, drop out,” as the late psychedelic guru Timothy Leary suggested in 1967? It's too early to tell, but somewhere Mr. Leary might be smiling.