The cannabis industry has made great strides in recent years. But is this just paving the way for other illicit substances?
It goes without saying that the cannabis industry has grown tremendously over the past decade. 33 U.S. States have now legalized the plant for medical purposes, 11 have done so for recreational purposes, Canada and Uruguay have federally legalized the plant, and the Oceania Region is steadily moving toward developing a robust cannabis industry.
Clearly, the War on Drugs is coming to an end and cannabis is the first cab off the rank. But is weed the only drug that will see a change in perception in the coming years? For some people, the answer is a plain and simple "no."
In particular, there is a real groundswell of support for the legalization of psilocybin – also known as magic mushrooms. To many, the efforts to legalize magic mushrooms would seem to legitimize the 'Gateway Theory' we've all grown familiar with, which supposes that once you try cannabis, you are more likely to continue trying harsher drugs.
In some respects, this is the case with the legalization of magic mushrooms, though not for the reason that anti-drug advocates would argue. As most of the cannabis propaganda that emerged during the War on Drugs has proven to be false or exaggerated, we're learning that cannabis has real, tangible benefits, both medicinally and economically for the states that legalize it.
Now, many are wondering if there are benefits to other naturally-occurring illicit substances that we were previously unaware of – starting with psilocybin.
The Case For Magic Mushrooms
While the legalization of cannabis certainly provided a precedent and a framework for other illicit substances to potentially be made legal, both cannabis and magic mushrooms are different beasts entirely. Cannabis exists in a grey-area of categorization; some call it a stimulant, others call it a depressant, and some even call it a hallucinogen – though cannabis itself is highly unlikely to lead to hallucinations.
Magic mushrooms such as psilocybin, on the other hand, are almost guaranteed to give users hallucinations at high doses. These include visual distortions, a distorted sense of time, and sometimes entirely fabricated visions of images or entities that aren't actually there. Think of the infamous hotel scene in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to get an idea of the experience.
So what is it about magic mushrooms that makes them worth legalizing?
One of the primary reasons that people advocate for the legalization of psilocybin is due to the fungi's therapeutic properties, which are being confirmed by a growing wealth of studies. For example, a 2016 study, which was a double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial involving 29 patients with cancer-related anxiety and depression, found that "psilocybin produced immediate, substantial, and sustained improvements in anxiety and depression and led to decreases in cancer-related demoralization and hopelessness, improved spiritual wellbeing, and increased quality of life."
Other studies have reported using psilocybin to achieve similar effects on depression, as well as helping to improve other symptoms like OCD, and even drug addiction and alcoholism. And most of this isn't new information – Psychedelic pioneers like Aldous Huxley and Albert Hoffman were trialling hallucinogens like LSD and psilocybin in the 1950s for psychotherapy purposes.
In fact, much like cannabis, early evidence of psilocybin use has been traced back thousands of years, with some labelling the plant an 'Entheogen' due to its believed historical use within religious contexts, and its ability to induce spiritual experiences. Moreover, the late, renowned psychedelic bard Terence McKenna went as far to suggest that hallucinogens such as psilocybin, and their ability to induce visions, played a crucial role in the forming of early religions, and may have even played a role in human evolution itself.
So just how close are we to the legalization of magic mushrooms?
Current Efforts To Legalize Magic Mushrooms
Currently, Psilocybin is listed as a Schedule I drug under the United Nations 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances. Drugs within this category are ones that are considered to have a high potential for abuse or drugs that have no recognized medical uses. Evidently, there is a lot of evidence to suggest that there are indeed medical uses for magic mushrooms, and some researchers have stated that it is actually one of the safest recreational substances in the world.
Clearly, even if you don't agree with flat-out legalizing magic mushrooms, it's hard to refute that they have been incorrectly categorized by the U.N. and likely in many countries as a result.
Despite this, many countries are beginning to relax their approach to psilocybin, and the psychotropic fungus has been decriminalized in several countries as a result.
As many will know, the Netherlands allows for the cultivation, purchase, and use of "magic truffles." Truffles are admittedly slightly different from typical magic mushrooms, however they still contain enough psilocybin in them to do the trick.
Austria has decriminalized psilocybin, though those found in possession of the plant can be required to undergo a drug-related therapy. However, the plant exists in a legal grey-area, in that you cannot purchase, harvest, or sell psilocybin legally.
Similarly, a handful of U.S. states have decriminalized magic mushrooms, including Denver, Colorado and Oakland and Santa Cruz in California. Out of all U.S. states to have decriminalized psilocybin, parts of California and Colorado are the least surprising as they were also first-movers when it came to cannabis legalization.
These are also the states where most action is happening on the psilocybin front, with Oregonian advocates for the drug currently running a campaign to include the legal, medical use of psilocybin mushrooms on the 2020 ballot. Currently, these efforts have resulted in over 130,000 signatures, which is more than required.
Similar efforts are occurring in California and Washington D.C.
Whether or not these legislative efforts prove effective enough to see change remains to be seen, however, if the legalization of cannabis is anything to go off, we may soon see magic mushrooms legal for medical consumption.
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