“Why haven’t we seen a picture of the whole mind yet?”:  Positive Possibilities for Psychedelics

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imageIf the recent hit movie It’s Complicated and the spate of legalization initiatives queuing up in California are any indication, pot has finally achieved mainstream respectability. More remarkably, despite the unrelentingly repressive atmosphere that smothered the first decade of our brave new century, psychedelic research in America has entered its Golden Age. James Fadiman, perhaps America’s wisest and most respected authority on psychedelics and their use, gives us a valuable update.

by James Fadiman

The chemicals of transformation of revelation that open the circuits of light, vision, and communication, called by us mind-manifesting, were known to the American Indians as medicines: the means given to men to know and to heal, to see and to say the truth.
                                                        Henry Munn

For those of us involved with psychedelics, this is a time of unexpected changes, a time to celebrate but only tentatively. After decades of winter, the ice is thinning. The warming trends toward legalization, increased religious, medical and psychotherapeutic use, scientific exploration and cultural acceptance are encouraging.

After so many years, why now? Perhaps, because the generation that suppressed research, criminalized personal use and jailed users is passing from power. This next generation is better able to admit to the ineffectiveness of the legal clampdown and to temper it. It is much easier for those who never voted for the current laws to recognize that some, passed in haste and ignorance, are unworkable and counter-productive.

While the agenda of the research community has focused on a restoration of therapeutic use , the most striking changes have been in the legal status of private personal use. The community of nations seems to be shaking off the fear induced by the excesses of the sixties, the phobic response of the American government and the pressure from the United States on other nations to follow its lead. Like wild flowers coming up through cracks in concrete, more countries are starting to set their own policies.

The Netherlands has long allowed some psychedelics to be quite easily available but s stopped short of formal legalization. Portugal legalized all drugs in 2001 and made it explicit that that treatment would be available for any drug user needing it. The naysayers fretted that this would have terrible consequences, but results have been entirely beneficial: less addiction, less social disruption, less crime, less actual use, more treatment facilities and huge savings in law enforcement.  Mexico legalized small amounts of all previously illegal drugs in 2009. This was done, in part, to free up resources to try to eliminate criminal drug cartels. Since illegal addictive drugs, including cocaine, heroin and their derivatives, are grown primarily for the United States market; the focus is now to minimize cross-border activities. The Czech Republic relaxed its laws to the point that many psychedelic plants may be owned or grown legally. It has also relaxed its penalties for possession of small amounts of manufactured substances like MDMA. 
The basis for these reforms is the recognition of the following realities:

     l. Psychedelics are not addictive; they never were.

     2. Marijuana unlike, tobacco and alcohol, does not cause systemic medical syndromes. In the Unites State alone, tobacco—legal, addictive and regulated—-directly contributes to the deaths of 400, 000 people a year while marijuana—illegal, non-addictive and unregulated—(and perhaps used by more Americans than still smoke cigarettes) does not kill any.

    3. Illegal drugs are crime and violence magnets. It was true when the United States prohibited alcohol; it is equally true of any other desired and prohibited substance. If you remove criminal penalties for benign or at least non-addictive drugs, personal use actually declines—at least in Holland and Portugal, the only two countries for which we have data. The other equivalent statistics we have is that those states with medical marijuana laws have not seen a rise in total marijuana smoked, despite forecasts that we would made by those trying to stop those laws from going into effect.   

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