Increasingly, people are taking psychedelic drugs (hallucinogens) to help with various mental health issues as well as substance abuse disorders. Among the most common are “magic mushrooms” and ayahuasca.
Several cities in Northern California (San Francisco, Oakland and Santa Cruz) have decriminalized the possession of natural psychedelics. In the upcoming session of the California legislature, lawmakers will be considering a bill that would decriminalize these drugs statewide.
Decriminalization isn’t the same as legalization
Decriminalization would mean that police couldn’t arrest someone for possessing or using small amounts. They would not be available through dispensaries, for example.
Law enforcement and prosecutors’ organizations have spoken out against decriminalization. As the California District Attorneys Association said, “Hallucinations can be dangerous to users and bystanders alike, and it is not clear that the benefit of legalizing these drugs outweighs the cost to the common welfare.”
They can be dangerous when used recreationally but helpful in the right settings
Psychedelics are typically taken only while someone is under the direct observation of a licensed “facilitator.” That’s the requirement of Oregon’s new law, which took effect at the beginning of this year. They’re often taken as part of a treatment prescribed and monitored by a psychiatric professional with experience using them in treatment.
As the state senator who introduced the bill says, “Psychedelics have tremendous capacity to help people heal….These drugs literally save lives and are some of the most promising treatments we have for PTSD, anxiety, depression, and addiction.” Some physicians and researchers note that decriminalizing these drugs would allow them to be used more widely in researching treatments for these and other conditions.
These drugs may have “natural” ingredients, but they can be extremely powerful. It can be dangerous to use them outside of a clinical setting or to purchase or take drugs you’re told by someone are psychedelics. Even if they become decriminalized throughout the state, that doesn’t mean they can’t be arrested for things you might do while under the influence of these drugs. If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, it’s wise to have experienced legal guidance.