May 15, 2021

What's the Difference Between Legalizing & Decriminalizing Psychedelics?

Before we dig in, note that this is not a legal discussion.

We’re here to talk about psychedelics that are used all around the world for a variety of reasons, despite their "illegal" status in some parts of the world.

Psychedelics & the Law

What Are Psychedelics?

Simply put, psychedelics are psychoactive substances that have the ability to produce changes in one’s cognitive processes, mood, and perception. They trigger unique states of consciousness and have a long history of use in many cultures.

Also known as hallucinogens, psychedelics affect all senses and can make a person hallucinate (see or hear things that don’t exist) and vividly retrieve memories.

There are many types of psychedelics on the market, all with unique effects. Some naturally occurring psychedelics include psilocybin (magic mushrooms) and ibogaine, while others others are synthesized in labs, such as MDMA and LSD.

Why Do People Take Psychedelics?

Psychedelics are often used for recreationally, spiritually, and medicinally.

Thanks to psychedelic researchers, we're learning about various medicinal uses for specific psychedelics, such as MDMA, ibogaine, LSD, and psilocybin.

Some of the reasons overlap for different use cases. People take psychedelics recreationally for their effects on the body and mind. Psychedelic "trips" are known to induce a kind of "rebirth", deep personal insights, changes in mindsets, and stimulatory and sensory effects.

Trips can last between 30 minutes and 12 hours, depending on the substance and dosage. Trips

Are Psychedelics Legal in the US & Canada?

The use, sale, and possession of hallucinogens is illegal in the US under federal law. This means you cannot trade psychedelics in the country even if the state allows you to. Some regions are granting permission for psychedelic therapy use.

Psilocybin and LSD were the first two to become illegal in 1968 when the Staggers-Dodd Bill got approved. However, the laws were weakly enforced.

Things changed in 1970 when Congress passed the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act that forced pharma companies to improve security and keep records of drugs sold. At the same time, the government decided to introduce a new classification system called scheduling. Psychedelics were categorized under Schedule I the Act, due to their "high potential for abuse and no therapeutic value."

The next year, the country signed a treaty called The Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971 with the aim to slow the spread of psychedelics and other such drugs.

In 1984, restrictions tightened with the introduction of the Comprehensive Crime Control Act. Since then, many organizations have tried to highlight the clinical benefits of psychedelics. Still, they remain illegal in most states, which means you can be criminalized if you are caught using, buying, or selling hallucinogens.

Legalization and Decriminalization of Psychedelics

There is a strong movement in the US and Canada to decriminalize psychedelics. The late 2010s brought exciting progress in psychedelics industry when Denver became the first US city to decriminalize the use of psilocybin in May 2019.  

Santacruz, Somerville, and Oakland soon jumped on the bandwagon and decriminalize the use of psilocybin. However, this doesn’t mean that psychedelics are now legal.

Decriminalization means that people caught possessing or keeping psychedelics will not be criminalized but psilocybin still cannot be legally sold or bought.

Will Psychedelics Be Legalized?

The future is bright for psychedelics, especially following the legalization of marijuana in Canada and parts of the US.

As research proves the therapeutic uses for certain psychedelic substances, and as medical professionals outline safety protocols, clinical indications w

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