In the midst of the presidential elections, a number of US states voted in favour of decriminalizing drugs in what the media is calling “an unprecedented drug law overhaul.” In every state where the ballot was proposed, people voted to abolish criminal penalties for possession.
Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota, all voted to decriminalize recreational marijuana use as well as possession. In Mississippi and South Dakota, medical marijuana will be legalized bringing the US states that have legalized cannabis up to 15 in total. And in Washington DC, psychedelic plants will be decriminalized.
It was Oregon, however, who made waves this week by decriminalising the possession of all illegal drugs including heroin, cocaine and methamphetamines while psilocybin will be legalized for therapeutic use. Oregon will be the state the first in the USA to fully legalize psilocybin – the predominant psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms.
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Oregon and Magic Mushrooms
Under current law, Oregon classifies psilocybin as a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning it is prohibited for all purposes. Simple possession is a misdemeanour for first-time offenders, who face up to a year in jail and a maximum fine of $6,250. Possessing 12 grams or more of psilocybin mushrooms is a Class B felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
While Oregon will be the first state to decriminalised magic mushrooms, last year Denver (Colorado) voters approved a groundbreaking initiative that made adult possession of psilocybin one of the city’s lowest law enforcement priorities and prohibited the use of state money and resources to pursue such cases.
Ann Arbor, Oakland, and Santa Cruz in the USA also passed similar measures to the one’s imposed in Denver and Oregon. This week voters in Washington, D.C. also approved decriminalization for noncommercial production, distribution, and possession of psilocybin and several other psychedelics derived from plants or fungi.
The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) plans to write legislation over the next two years for the licensing and regulating “psilocybin service centres.” These psychedelic service centres will allow adults 21 or older to legally take the drug under the supervision of a facilitator after completing a preparation session. According to the initiative, the OHA won’t necessarily require a client to be diagnosed with or have any particular medical condition in order to provide a person with psilocybin services.
In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognized psilocybin as a “breakthrough therapy” for depression, suggesting that it may eventually be approved as a prescription drug. Oregon’s successful campaign emphasized psilocybin’s potential to “treat depression, anxiety, addiction and other mental health challenges.”
Oregon has one of the highest drug abuse rates in the USA. The new initiative plans to place an emphasis on treating addiction as a health issue, rather than one of law and order as is done in Europe. Instead of jail time, those found in possession of drugs will have the option to either pay a $100 fine or sign up for rehabilitation services.
State money will be funnelled towards treatment and social services for drug users – such as addiction recovery centres, housing and healthcare.
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