It began locally, with growers and caregivers extolling the virtues of adding alternative and plant based remedies as an option to treating with traditional medicines. It began locally with advocates fighting on behalf of incarcerated friends or family members, individuals that found relief using federally illegal products, yet faced jail time for doing so. It is a movement that challenges the way we think about wellness as well as personal liberties. But it’s not cannabis. The movement we refer to is one that promotes the use of entheogens, generally plant derived and most certainly containing psychoactive properties. Never heard of entheogens? The word is a neologism, which itself comes from the Greek, neo and logos or new speech. Simply put, a neologism is a way of describing something that had previously been described otherwise and is perhaps not quite yet used across all popular culture. Entheogen addresses the simple fact that psilocybin, mescaline, LSD, all are naturally occurring and that associations with terms such as hallucinogenic or psychedelics have been used to suggest connotations of delirium hallucinations or psychosis, completely disregarding the therapeutic use and value found in these substances. Going back to the Greek dictionary, entheos is defined as ‘inspired, full of god’ and genesthai means ‘come into being’. Which gives us entheogen or a drug that gives us inspiration often in a spiritual manner. When referencing THC products, cannabis has become the descriptive of choice, thankfully replacing the pejorative and non-botanical, marijuana. Within entheogenic advocacy groups, such as Decriminalize Nature, the focus, as with cannabis, is on the plant / fungi and to normalize our human interactions with nature while respecting the entheogenic role in healing and health. For this discussion, we will focus on psilocybin as it has become the focal point for decriminalization having been recently decriminalized in Denver, Santa Cruz, Oakland with Berkeley and Chicago also considering recommendations.
While both cannabis and entheogenic plants fall under DEA’s Schedule 1 of drugs, those that are defined as “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse” the global prohibition that stymied cannabis acceptance was not as prevalent with entheogenic plants. In fact, restrictions on natural psychedelics are loose. The official position of the United Nations is that: “No plants are currently controlled under the Conventions. Preparations made from entheogenic plants containing active ingredients are also not under international control… Examples of such plants or plant material include ayahuasca, a preparation made from plants indigenous to the Amazon basin of South America, mainly a jungle vine (Banisteriopsis caapi) and another tryptamine-rich plant (Psychotria viridis) containing a number of psychoactive alkaloids, including DMT; the peyote cactus (Lophophora williamsii), containing mescaline; Psilocybe mushrooms, which contain psilocybin and psilocin; and iboga (Tabernanthe iboga), a plant that contains ibogaine and is native to the western part of Central Africa.” Additionally, different Entheogenic plants are decriminalized or legalized in various countries, such as Brazil, Jamaica, Portugal, Gabon, New Zealand, South Africa, Mexico, Costa Rica, and the Netherlands. In particular, Portugal’s decriminalization of all drugs in 2001 decreased addiction and drug-related deaths without leading to a significant increase in drug usage, and can be used as an informative model for how to effectively treat drug issues in society” (Felix, Sonia et. al).
That is a substantial list, covering a fair amount of geography and plant life. But back to psilocybin.
In the U.S., Denver voters passed Initiative 301 decriminalizing psilocybin containing mushrooms, and Oakland passed a resolution like this proposal decriminalizing involvement with and usage of Entheogenic Plants. Santa Cruz California was added to the list in the new year and as discussed above, Chicago and Berkeley, should follow. In New Mexico, the cultivation of mushrooms is not prohibited by law as a result of the 2005 court case. Certain groups also have explicit permission to use entheogenic plants for ceremonial and sacramental use under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 and various court decisions. Some may argue that cannabis legislation has helped pave the way for entheogenic decriminalization. Yet some will also contest that entheogens were already ‘accepted’ as seen in the UN report. Though currently illegal in the U.S., entheogenic plants are increasingly showing promise in clinical research for treating myriad serious conditions. Recent research with psilocybin for depression shows that it significantly reduces symptoms and has promise for treating alcohol and drug addiction as well as general and end of life anxiety. Mushrooms have also historically been used to facilitate beneficial personal and spiritual growth. A John Hopkins study on neurotypical participants revealed that over 75% of the respondents considered their psilocybin experience to be among the top five most meaningful experiences of their lives. Mushrooms are also fairly low risk, with no noted addictive properties and direct overdose practically impossible, and a study by the Center for Assessment and Monitoring of New Drugs concluded that the risk to public order, individual health, and public health was low.
In part two, we will hear from leading entheogenic experts. They will report on their patient successes using psilocybin for personal discovery / development therapy in addition to studies demonstrating results in depression, anxiety and PTSD. Its just the beginning
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