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

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A second group of countries have not changed their laws, but their courts have ruled that their constitutions affirm the right to private, consciousness-changing activities. Courts in Brazil and Argentina have concluded that it is not legal to deny people the right to personal use of whatever substances, as long as it does not lead to socially unacceptable or criminal behavior.

The third group of countries, still uncertain what direction to take, includes the United States. In the United States, policies that lumped marijuana, psychedelics and addictive drugs together led to a bulging jail population, the proliferation of highly profitable international criminal activities, distortion of the national economy in countries producing illegal drugs for American consumption and a growing disdain for government’s failure to cope with the situation. The added ill is that these policies cost billions of dollars annually.

In spite of the Washington’s reluctance to change, state after state has used their prerogative to allow people to use marijuana as a medication. Until the Obama Administration, the federal government did its best to subvert these laws and keep all marijuana users criminalized. An indication of the pent-up demand for legal medical use is that within a few weeks of the Administration’s decision to allow such use, compliant with state laws, eight hundred marijuana dispensaries opened up in Los Angeles alone, outnumbering the number of banks or public schools in the city. The trend toward legalization is accelerating as it becomes more and more self-evident that marijuana use does not lead to violence or to criminal behavior. That the last three presidents have smoked marijuana at one point in their careers has not been lost on reformers or the general public. Marijuana is not a psychedelic, but it is a consciousness altering substance used traditionally for spiritual and therapeutic purposes. As its status changes, it will make stronger consciousness altering plants and substances less likely to remain demonized.

Several states, notably California, but Nevada, Washington and Florida as well, are trying to put initiatives on their ballots to decriminalize or legalize marijuana. In California, the main argument is that marijuana production, though one of the state’s largest industries, is totally untaxed and that its interdiction is expensive and unsuccessful.  The idea is to turn a sinkhole of wasted money into a source of revenue. The California proposition that already has enough signatures to qualify for the ballot makes possession of up to one ounce legal; it allows individual cultivation in a garden of no more than 25 square feet, forbids sales to minors and forbids smoking in public. The specifics of regulation and taxation are left to local jurisdictions.

In addition, and directly pertaining to psychedelics and religious freedom, several court cases have established that religious groups using ayahuasca as their central sacrament may practice their faith without fear of imprisonment. These cases are a first step toward the restoration of religious liberty regarding other psychedelics in other settings.

Even the nonsense of forbidding cultivation of hemp, as though it were marijuana, (comparable to putting root beer in the same class as Coors) has been getting a fresh look. Imported hemp products, including those for human consumption, are again available, and one state, Washington, following the example of Canada and a dozen other countries, allows hemp to be grown, harvested and sold. There seems to be, if not an end the lack of common sense in the regulatory establishment, at least some cracks in it.
Making marijuana legal and taxable will greatly reduce the budgets and staff of the drug enforcement establishment—and its clout. The push back will come from the drug prohibition-law enforcement- private-prison-prison-guard complex, institutions whose profits or very existence depends on strict enforcement and long sentences. Many police departments, for example, who depend on the seizure of property and money from drug arrests as a major revenue source will fight a loss to their incomes.

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