This month California’s Legislature passed a bill to decriminalize certain psychedelics which is now awaiting Governor Newsom’s signature. The rest of the United States, namely the federal government, should take note.
The California Legislature aims to allow individuals 21 years of age and older to legally possess limited amounts of mescaline, DMT, psilocybin, and psilocyn for personal use starting in 2025. In addition to legalizing their possession, Californian adults would also be allowed to cultivate psilocybin and psilocyn for personal use.
Notably, synthetic psychedelics such as LSD and MDMA were not included in the legislation. Ideally, these psychedelics would be legalized as well since synthetic substances can be more easily unknowingly tampered with. But their exclusion was a political maneuver that helped to get this legislation passed — synthetic psychedelics were originally included in the first iteration of this bill that failed to pass the Assembly.
Additionally, peyote, which is another natural psychedelic, was not included because the cactus that it is derived from is endangered, and there are concerns that its total legalization or decriminalization would cause shortages that would affect the native populations who use the substance in their ceremonies. Current California law criminalizes the cultivation and harvesting of peyote, though federal law allows indigenous individuals to possess and consume the substance for religious purposes.
Certain U.S. states have legalized and decriminalized some psychedelics for recreational and therapeutic use. In lieu of legalization, decriminalization of drugs is a righteous goal as it allows for increased research on the substances as securing funding becomes easier, increased treatment of substance use disorder as individuals will be less weary of being criminally charged for their drug use, and decreased amounts of drugs on the black market as the substances will be moved off of the streets into regulated storefronts.
But despite efforts by states, psychedelics remain totally illegal at the federal level as they are categorized as Schedule I drugs, meaning the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) believes they have “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”
But that just isn’t true.
Psychedelics do have potential short-term negative health effects like anxiety, increased heart rate, and psychosis. But they are generally not addictive and fatal overdoses are highly unlikely. There are also potential health benefits to psychedelics, such as alleviating migraines, aiding in the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder, and reducing stress-related anxiety. But research on both the negative and positive impacts of psychedelics has been severely limited by the DEA’s scheduling of these substances, placing consumers at a significant disadvantage when making the personal choice to use these substances.
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