Making a case for Legalizing Psychedelics

Peter Dejong, The Associated Press

Aside from issues that rightly dominate print headlines and social media, there is an inconspicuous national movement arising: legalizing psychedelics.

This movement may cause many boomers to smirk as they conjure up memories of Dr. Timothy Leary, the iconic advocate for using psychedelics. He coined the phrase, “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” Such skepticism also greeted the advocacy for legalizing marijuana, renamed more accurately as cannabis. In the sixties, it was unthinkable that possessing cannabis would be legal.

Fifty years ago, the jails were filled with Black citizens for smoking cannabis. Even in liberal California, after forty years of anti-cannabis laws, Black people were imprisoned ten times more often for possessing marijuana than other racial groups. As recently as 2010, cannabis arrests accounted for 52 percent of all drug arrests. Nearly eight million people were arrested on pot charges from 2000 to 2010, with cannabis arrests accounting for 52 percent of all drug arrests. And 88 percent of those arrests were for simple possession.

Nevertheless, despite police pursuing those arrests across the country, popular sentiment on using cannabis began shifting. In November 2012, Washington State and Colorado, through initiatives, became the first two states to legalize personal use of marijuana for adults twenty-one and over. Washington’s passed with 56 percent of the vote, and the majority voters in some of the most conservative regions of the state voted in favor of legalizing.

Long before those votes, the path toward legalizing cannabis occurred through approving its use for medical purposes. California effectively legalized medical cannabis in 1996, when voters approved Proposition 215 by a 56–44 margin. By 2016 most states had legalized the medical use of cannabis, reaching 36 states in 2020.

Psychedelics are following the same path as cannabis did in being legalized. Advocates for both drugs argue that they provide medicinal properties to relieve pain, particularly in end-of-life treatments. That approach worked for cannabis. An April 2021 Pew poll found national support at 91% for the medical use of cannabis.

But in taking that path, advocates for psychedelics don’t post any LSD signs. That’s probably because…

Nick Licata,