Over the last decade we’ve seen a wave of cannabis reform efforts that have seemingly reached every corner of the globe. In the US alone, nearly three-quarters of the nation has adopted some type of medical cannabis program, while over a dozen states have legalized it completely for adult recreational use. Now, we’re seeing the psychedelics industry following the same exact path – first with sweeping decriminalization and the implementation of psychedelic-assisted therapy, and eventually, one can only assume, full-scale adult-use legalization.
As it stands, psychoactive plants, roots, and fungi remain federally prohibited, categorized under Schedule 1 on the DEA’s list of controlled substances. However, individual cities and states are taking steps to loosen up restrictions on these plants. 2022 is expected to be an amazing year for drug reform, and many states already have legislation in the works regarding entheogenic substances. Is your state on this list? Will psychedelics legalization happen where you live?
The legalization of psychedelics is a hot topic of discussion right now, and we’re here to keep you updated every step of the way. For more articles like this one, remember to subscribe to the Psychedelics Weekly Newsletter, your top source for everything related to this growing and important industry.
Decriminalization vs Legalization of Psychedelics
The terms “decriminalization” and “legalization” are often used interchangeably, but they are very different. Full legalization of psychedelics removes most legal prohibitions against such compounds, but age restrictions, DUI laws, and some other restrictions would still apply. If psychedelics are completely legalized, individuals found selling or possessing it for personal use will not be subject to criminal OR civil penalties.
Decriminalization means that the substance in question is still federally illegal, but criminal penalties are not enforced. Instead, users would face civil penalties such as fines and forced rehabilitation, although any type of legal action would be the lowest of priorities. Records may be kept in a local tribunal, but they will not affect employment, housing, or travel opportunities. If an individual is court-ordered into a rehab program, and they chose not to attend, it’s possible that criminal penalties would be imposed at that point.
The problem with decriminalization is that it can allow for too much interpretation of the law. For example, in a decriminalized state, a police officer can still take your cannabis, fine you, and send you to court where your case will end up getting thrown out if it meets the criteria of a legal decriminalized amount. So, you’re out the money you spent on flower that remains confiscated, the city doesn’t get any additional money from you because the case is tossed out in court, and the entire ordeal is majorly inconvenient and a huge waste of time for everyone involved.
The plus side to decriminalization is that it signifies the changing and more progressive views of the general public. A quick google search of psychedelics will lead to a seemingly endless list of news stories about different regions that are decriminalizing psychedelics, specifically psilocybin, for various reasons – be it personal use or therapeutic.
California has made a lot of progress this year on the psychedelic front and it’s highly likely that these substances will be legalized by the end of the year. This could happen one of two ways: either through a legislative approach sponsored by democratic senator Scott Wiener, or via a ballot campaign that would allow citizens to vote on it during the 2022 elections.
Senate Bill 519, which aims to legalize various psychedelics including psilocybin mushrooms, DMT, ibogaine, LSD, and MDMA for adult use (21 and over), passed through a second senate vote last spring. It was expected to be finalized by the end of 2021, but ultimately, the bill was turned into a two-year proposal to be revived in 2022. Experts believe there is a “50/50 chance” that SB 519 will advance this session.
Luckily, that is not the only path to psychedelics legalization in the golden state, as California activists are currently collecting signatures to add a psychedelics reform initiative to the November ballot. This route would only legalize psilocybin mushrooms, however. Psychedelic mushrooms are already decriminalized in Oakland and Santa Cruz.
Colorado is already on the forefront of psychedelic legalization, with Denver having decriminalized psilocybin mushrooms two years ago. The Capital City became the first in the nation to take such a progressive step, so it makes sense for the rest of the state to follow suit. The city of Colorado Springs, the second largest city in the state, also has its own bill in the works.
On a grander scale, Colorado’s 2022 ballot will contain a few different initiatives regarding psychedelics reform. The first one would legalize possession, cultivation, and personal use of psychedelics for anyone over the age of 21 years. Additionally, a framework for regulating “healing centers” would be established, where patients could safely utilize psilocybin, DMT, ibogaine, and mescaline for therapeutic treatments.
The other two initiatives, both titled The Natural Medicine Healing Act, were spearheaded by national advocacy groups. One is similar to the above proposal and would legalize cultivation and possession of numerous different psychoactive substances, as well setting up a licensing process for psychedelic therapy clinics. The second bill is almost identical but would only apply to psilocybin and psilocin.
In Michigan, a handful of cities have already passed psychedelic reform laws, the largest being Grand Rapids and Detroit. At the state level, a bill sponsored by democratic senator Jeff Irwin would legalize cultivation, possession, and even delivery of many different plant-derived entheogenic substances.
Delivery here is not used in the normal sense of the word, which is typically refers to a product that is paid for then brought to the customer’s location. Irwin specified that people delivering psychedelics would be exempt from criminal penalties so long as “they are not receiving money or other valuable consideration for the entheogenic plant or fungus.” Commercial production, sales, and distribution would remain illegal.
The most interesting part though, is a clause that states people will still be permitted to “charge a reasonable fee for counseling, spiritual guidance, or a related service that are provided in conjunction with the use of an entheogenic plant or fungus under the guidance and supervision of an individual providing the service.”
A republican lawmaker from Missouri, Rep. Michael Davis, submitted a proposal that would legalize psychedelic use for people with certain serious medical conditions. Some of the substances in question include MDMA, DMT, ibogaine, LSD, mescaline, peyote and psilocybin. Additionally, the proposal states that, “production and distribution of any Schedule I psychedelic drug that qualifies as an investigational drug… by a manufacturer and any dispensation of such drug by a physician or pharmacy for use in accordance with this section shall be considered lawful.”
This bill would be building on the state’s existing ‘right-to-try’ law, which was passed by, surprisingly by conservative majority in Congress, and was signed into law in 2018. Right-to-try laws were created with the intent of allowing terminally ill patients to utilize experimental treatment options (drugs, devices, biologics, etc.) that have completed Phase I clinical testing but have not yet been approved by the FDA. Missouri was the third state to enact such laws, and currently, 41 state offer the “right-to-try”.
“There is emerging interest and significant clinical research supporting the safety and efficacy of psychedelic drugs for PTSD, traumatic injury therapy and numerous other conditions,” Davis said in a press release. “Because the [Food and Drug Administration] has not taken action to reschedule these drugs and make them generally available, I am working to make these drugs available through Missouri’s investigational drug access statute.”
Last week, Virginia lawmakers introduced two bills that would decriminalize the possession and use of a handful of natural psychedelics, one in the House of Delegates and one in the Senate. The house bill would reduce the possession of “peyote, ibogaine, psilocybin, or psilocin by adults 21 and older” from a Class 5 felony to a civil penalty that carries a $100 fine.
As per the proposal, “Any dollars collected from psychedelics possession violations would go to the state’s Drug Offender Assessment and Treatment Fund, which supports substance misuse treatment programs and drug courts.”
The senate bill is pretty much identical but only applies to psilocybin and psilocin found in psychedelic mushrooms and truffles. Virginia is also working on implementing a commercial cannabis market, so this should be an exciting year for the Old Dominion State.
Being one of the first states to legalize recreational cannabis back in 2012, alongside Colorado, and with their neighbors to the south, Oregon, having already decriminalized all drugs, it makes sense that Washington is considering more a more lenient stance on psychedelics as well.
As a matter of fact, the ballot prepared by industry activists would decriminalize drugs on a wider scale, making the possession of any “unlawful” drug only a civil infraction. People caught with such contraband would either pay a fine or be referred to a drug treatment program. Currently, drug possession in Washington is a misdemeanor, reduced from a felony in 2021.
Christina Blocker of Commit to Change Washington, says her organization is “energized by the support that we have received across the state of Washington,” and that “2022 is the year where we will have the opportunity to end the War on Drugs and its impacts on our families, our neighbors, and our communities.”
Final Thoughts on Psychedelics Legalization in 2022
Exactly how many of these bills and ballot proposals will actually pass remains to be seen, but it’s exciting to know that the country is taking psychedelics seriously and, at the state level, we are beginning to witness the overbearing restrictions that are currently in place, slowly dissolve away. Maybe full legalization of psychedelics is not as far-fetched as we once thought.
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Disclaimer: Hi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or businessperson. All information in my articles is sourced and referenced, and all opinions stated are mine. I am not giving anyone advice, and though I am more than happy to discuss topics, should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a relevant professional.