The status of psychedelics is at a tipping point. Especially in the case of magic mushrooms. Various American cities are on the verge of, or have already achieved the decriminalisation of fungi-based psychedelics. Research projects that focus on the medical benefits of psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) are being given the green light, and producing promising results. The psychedelic ripple is becoming a wave.
The Revolution Was Cut Short
We have in a sense, come full circle. For, as late as 1960, psychedelics were still a legitimate field of psychological research. However, American mainstream culture was not ready for their explosion. Despite research into their medicinal effects being positive; and their role in essential changes in society, (such as the civil rights, anti-war, modern feminism and environmental movements) their demonising in popular culture, from an establishment unready for change, cut short the revolution.
Unlike societies such as the Maya, Aztecs or Ancient Greeks, who worked psychedelics into ceremonial ritual, or other guided practises— modern America had no model or history in place for this exploration. Due to this people were left to their own devices. And, unfortunately, for the many who had positive experiences, a few, through misuse, did not. Culturally, the mainstream was not yet ready.
Pushed Back Underground
In 1971, the Convention of Psychotropic Substances was passed by the UN. This made psychedelics, both natural (like psilocybin) or synthesized (like LSD) a ‘Schedule 1’ substance. As well as stopping normal people using psychedelics, it meant that research into their medicinal benefits was also terminated. And so, for the time being, psychedelics went underground…
Loopholes and Legality
There were still some places, however, where magic mushrooms could be be found relatively easily. A loophole in the law— that banned the psilocybin compound, but not the mushroom containing psilocybin itself, meant that there was room for interpretation. Here are a few of the countries that allow the use of magic mushrooms (in varying degrees!)
Jamaica is rare, in that magic mushrooms have never been illegal. Locals and visitors can attend psilocybin mushroom retreats (even featured in Hollywood wellness-freak Gwyneth Paltrow’s show ‘The Goop Lab’), and shrooms themselves are sold openly.
While the psilocybin compound is illegal in Brazil, there are no laws that criminalise the use, sale or distribution of magic mushrooms themselves. Additionally, ayahuasca has been legal in Brazil since 1992, after a legal battle regarding the rights of traditional religious practices.
The Netherlands holds a reputation as the European destination of choice for those wanting to ‘trip’ on their trip. Over time the Dutch drug laws have been praised by some for their tolerance and logic— while being criticised by others for the very same thing. Magic mushrooms became illegal in 2008, but a loophole in the law meant that ‘magic truffles’ (the underground portion of the psilocybin mushrooms) remained legal. Due to this, as well as legal cannabis, the Netherlands remains a mecca for those hoping to expand their consciousness.
In Canada, although selling shrooms is illegal, possession is not. Additionally, there are a few dispensaries in Vancouver where microdoses can be purchased. However, to buy from these dispensaries currently, you must have a diagnosed medical condition such as depression or PTSD.
America Makes Steps
At time of writing American cities Oakland and Santa Cruz, California and Denver, Colorado had decriminalised magic mushrooms. The state of Oregon hopes to follow soon, and the entirety of the state of California is making noises about a change. Even in New York the talks have begun!
The Ripple Becomes a Wave…
So why the psychedelic wave now? It is not only the new evidence for psilocybin’s effectiveness in treating depression, PTSD, OCD and more, that started the ripple again. It is also that our culture has evolved. In the 1960s, practices such as yoga and meditation, that went alongside being into psychedelics, were considered unusual or strange. Today, even your mother has done a yoga class or learnt to meditate from a Youtube video. A lot of the things that were triggered by the psychedelic counterculture of the 60s have now become absorbed by the mainstream. Just not the psychedelics themselves, yet…
A Promising Future
As institutions take charge of the new psychedelic wave, from a medical angle, it seems only a matter of time before these things become completely normalised. Like cannabis in certain states of America, its legality was granted firstly for medicinal purposes, and then later for recreational use too. Once a substance is granted legal status as medicine, there begins a possibility for wider use. In our (Western) culture of wellness, perfectly healthy people take supplements to boost themselves. To use an extreme example, contraception, a necessity, also boosts quality of life. This right should never be questioned. Can a future be visualised where magic mushrooms are considered essential too?
As laws continue to be changed and re-examined, and grassroots petitions become law, we have every reason to be hopeful.