Drug War Crumbles as 14 Cities Have Now Decriminalized Mushrooms, Other Psychedelics—Despite Prohibition

Despite the overwhelming evidence showing that kidnapping and caging people for possessing illegal substances does nothing to prevent use and only leads to more crime and suffering, government is still hell bent on enforcing the war on drugs. Like a crack addict who needs to find his next fix, the state is unable to resist the temptation to kick in doors, shake down brown people, and ruin lives to enforce the drug war.

Instead of realizing the horrific nature of the enforcement of prohibition, many cities across the country double down on the drug war instead of admitting failure. As we can see from watching it unfold, this only leads to more suffering and more crime. Luckily, there are cities, and now entire states in other parts of the country that are taking steps to stop this violent war and the implications for such measures are only beneficial to all human kind.

Eight years ago, Colorado citizens—tired of the war on drugs and wise to the near-limitless benefits of cannabis—made US history by voting to legalize recreational marijuana. Then, in 2019, this state once again placed themselves on the right side of history as they voted to decriminalize magic mushrooms. But this was just the beginning and their momentum is spreading—faster and stronger, toward decriminalizing all plant-based psychedelics. Then, last year, the state of Oregon decriminalized all drugs.

Now, another spark has erupted, and this time it is in Michigan. In March, Hazel Park City Council voted to decriminalize psilocybin and other naturally occurring psychedelics — following the lead of municipalities across the country.

Hazel Park is the third city in Michigan to pass a resolution to decriminalize psilocybin and the fourteenth in the nation.

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The Emerging Magic Mushroom Monopoly

In December 2017, one of the godfathers of the contemporary psychedelic renaissance, Bob Jesse, penned a manifesto for the commercial era of hallucinogens, one that echoed as far and wide as when Timothy Leary famously evangelized, “Turn on, tune in, drop out,” in 1966. Jesse delivered a very different kind of message: “Open science for all!”

A philanthropist and independent researcher, Jesse was instrumental to reviving a new wave of medical interest into psychedelic-assisted therapy starting in the 1990s. This new form of therapy offers a revolutionary approach to treating the rising cases of depression and anxiety in the U.S. But Jesse began to see this pioneering research pillaged by Big Pharma, as soon as it showed commercial value as a breakthrough treatment for mental illness.

In the manifesto, Jesse took a stand against would-be monopolists for flagrantly misusing patent laws, advocating instead for a shared creative commons for psychedelic research, with limited intellectual-property rights. The statement attracted over 100 co-signers, including every major figure in the psychedelic research and NGO community, from philanthropic funders to grassroots advocates.

But there was a notable absence from the list: the founders of Compass Pathways, a rapidly growing psychedelic therapy company bankrolled by major investors, notably Peter Thiel, the PayPal co-founder and right-wing political financier.

“It was very suspicious when they didn’t sign on to the letter. It gave a lot of people pause about what their plans were,” said Carey Turnbull, a longtime philanthropist in the psychedelic community who has become one of Compass Pathways’ main detractors.

Compass’s founders—millionaire couple George Goldsmith and Ekaterina Malievskaia—had already raised eyebrows by quietly transitioning from a charity organization to a for-profit corporation in 2017. Compass was also conducting dubious drug trials on the Isle of Man, an infamous tax haven for the uber-wealthy with lax regulatory oversight. Suspicions abounded about the unusually restrictive contracts it pushed researchers to sign, and reports that Compass had blocked other organizations from signing a deal with one of their drug manufacturers.

The unwillingness to sign the letter was more than a snub. It was a harbinger of things to come.

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Take Two Shrooms and Call Me in the Morning: The Medical Promise of Magic Mushrooms

SIX YEARS AGO, on a late fall evening, I stood in front of a pinball machine, flummoxed. The game was space themed, with an elaborate UFO in the middle surrounded by a kaleidoscope of flashing lights. I was mesmerized, but I had no idea how to make it start. The machine’s coin slot and glowing buttons were suddenly indecipherable. Time felt like it had slowed to a crawl, and I became paranoid that the handful of people in the bar were staring at me, wondering what I was doing. It was then I realized that the magic mushrooms were kicking in.

This was the first time I’d taken a hallucinogen since my early twenties. Back then, as a university student, it was a lark. Now, in my forties with a family, the idea was daunting. This trip, however, had a medical purpose: for nearly two decades, I’ve struggled with a rare illness known as cluster headaches. Cluster headaches have been described as more painful than childbirth and kidney stones; they’re sometimes referred to as “suicide headaches” because of the mental toll they take. These headaches happen in groups—for me, they occur two or three times a day for weeks on end. Like migraines, they’re difficult to treat. Over the years, I’ve visited countless neurologists, chiropractors, acupuncturists, and naturopaths. I’ve taken prescriptions and experimented with cleanses and diets. Nothing worked.

Then I stumbled onto Clusterbusters, a popular message board created by a fellow sufferer, where people around the world could swap advice. There was one tip that was gaining traction: multiple posters were reporting that, after they had consumed magic mushrooms, their headaches had abruptly—miraculously—stopped. I was in the midst of a headache cycle at the time and was desperate to stop the pain. I reached out to a long-time friend in Toronto, and not long afterward, we downed a handful of dry, fishy-tasting fungi in his newly renovated kitchen.

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Congress Should Let D.C. Decriminalize Psychedelics, Advocates Say

Drug policy reform advocates are asking a key congressional committee to reject a Republican lawmaker’s attempt to block Washington, D.C. from enacting an initiative to decriminalize certain psychedelics.

Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD)—who has also championed provisions preventing D.C. from implementing legal marijuana sales after local voters passed a cannabis initiative in 2014—signaled last week that he’s planning to introduce an amendment to a spending bill during a committee meeting on Wednesday that would restrict the District from allowing the psychedelics measure to be implemented even if it is approved by voters in November.

The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) is in favor of the proposal and, on Tuesday, it sent a letter to leadership in the House Appropriations Committee asking members to oppose Harris’s amendment and any other effort to restrict the democratic process for D.C. residents.

The measure, which hasn’t formally qualified for the ballot yet but received significantly more signatures than required when activists submitted them last week, would make a wide range of entheogenic substances including psilocybin mushrooms and ayahuasca among the jurisdiction’s lowest law enforcement priorities. However, it wouldn’t technically change local statute.

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