Latest Developments in Psychedelic Legalization

Developments in Psychedelics worth celebrating

The entheogenic landscape is changing rapidly. If you have an interest in psychedelics it’s likely you will have noticed that there seems to be an exponential trajectory away from the fringes of society, towards mainstream acceptance. When the “war on drugs” started in the 60s, there was an almost total hiatus on psychedelic research. A relentless political campaign against psychedelics forced plant medicines underground. Fortunately, the ice has started to thaw. Since the late 90s / early 2000s, research has resumed in earnest, and the western world is starting to realize what indigenous cultures have known for thousands of years – that psychedelics can be profoundly beneficial, transformative and healing.

With an ever-growing wealth of scientific research to support the decriminalization of psychedelics, laws around the world are beginning to catch-up, particularly in Canada and the United States. Here is a timeline of developments over the last five years.

2016

  • Austria decriminalizes psilocybin

2017

  • August – The FDA grants Breakthrough Therapy Status to research being carried out by MAPS on MDMA-assisted psychotherapy 

2018

  • August – Compass Pathways receives Breakthrough Therapy Status from the FDA for a psilocybin synthetic derivative

2019

  • March – Esketamine is approved in the form of Spravato by the FDA, followed by European Commission approval in December
  • April – Imperial College London launches world’s first Centre for Psychedelics Research
  • June – Denver, Colorado and Oakland, California vote to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms.  Denver, Colorado became the first city to decriminalize psilocybin and psychedelic mushrooms in May 2019 under Ordinance 301. The Denver Psilocybin Initiative argued that the substance is physiologically safe and non-addictive, and has the potential to treat stress, suicidality, and opioid use and dependence. Non-profit group SPORE came from the Denver ballot success and continues to push for psychedelic legalization across the country.  Oakland, California expanded their measure from Denver’s, decriminalizing all entheogenic plants in June 2019. Entheogenic plants include magic mushrooms as well as other plants and fungi that contain psychoactive compounds, such as cacti, iboga, ayahuasca, and plants containing compounds such as indole amines, tryptamines, and phenethylamines.
  • September – Researchers at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio developed an economical method to mass produce psilocybin.
  • November – The world’s first microdosing study using LSD is approved in Auckland
  • November – Usona Institute receives Breakthrough Therapy Status for psilocybin treatment for Major Depression Disorder

2020

  • January – Johns Hopkins launches the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research
  • February – Santa Cruz California votes to decriminalize psychedelic substances including psilocybin, ayahuasca, and peyote
  • March – MindMed becomes the first publicly traded psychedelics company
  • July – More than 45 companies claim to be engaged in the development and evaluation of therapeutic candidates from psychedelic substances.
  • September – In September 2020, the City Council of Ann Arbor, Michigan decriminalized all entheogenic plants and fungi, including psilocybin, mushrooms, ayahuasca, mescaline, peyote, iboga, and more.  The resolution cited that these substances can “Benefit psychological and physical wellness, support and enhance religious and spiritual practices, and can reestablish human’s inalienable and direct relationship to nature.”
  • September – The University of California Berkeley launches the Center for the Science of Psychedelics
  • October – Numinus Wellness Inc. in Vancouver, Canada harvested the first legal flush of psilocybin mushrooms by a public company.
  • November – Oregon legalizes psilocybin and decriminalizes all drugs.  In November 2020, Oregonians passed Measure 109, which legalizes psilocybin, the active compound in magic mushrooms, for therapeutic usage, making Oregon the first state to do so. Under the law, psilocybin can be administered to a mental health patient under the care of a licensed facilitator. The measure sets aside a two-year period to create a framework to regulate the substance and create licensed therapy centers.  Oregonians also passed Measure 110 in November 2020, which decriminalizes possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use, including psychedelics, but also substances such as heroin, cocaine, and more. The measure also creates drug addiction treatment and recovery programs. 
  • November – Washington D.C. decriminalizes entheogenic psychedelics.  Washington, DC voters overwhelmingly approved DC Initiative 81 in November 2020 with 76% of the vote, which decriminalizes entheogenic plants and fungi. The initiative took effect March 15, 2021.
  • November – (Spain) New research suggests DMT can stimulate the production of new brain cells
  • December – MAPS completes first successful Phase III trial of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy
  • December – multiple financial analysts announce that psychedelics could become a $100 billion market

2021

  • January – In Hawaii a senate bill put forward legislation that could legalize psilocybin and psilocin, AKA magic mushrooms
  • January – In January 2021, the City Council of Somerville, Massachusetts, next to Boston, unanimously voted to decriminalize entheogenic plants and fungi. The Cambridge City Council followed suit in February 2021.
  • February – California assembly introduces legislation to decriminalize most psychedelic substances
  • February – New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) in February signed legislation (A5084/S3256) easing penalties for possession of up to an ounce of mushrooms, dropping the punishment to a disorderly persons offense punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine instead of up to five years in prison.
  • March – Over 285 active, soon to be active, and completed psychedelics trials are recorded around the world.
  • April – Another Massachusetts city has approved a measure to deprioritize enforcement of laws against the possession, use and distribution of a wide range of psychedelics such as psilocybin and ayahuasca.  This time, the Northampton City Council passed the resolution, which also states that no government or police funds should be used to enforce laws criminalizing people for using or possessing entheogenic plants and fungi.  The vote on Thursday was unanimous, 8-0, and it makes Northampton the third city in the state to enact the reform. Somerville and Cambridge have also moved to effectively decriminalize psychedelics.
  • April – The Fireside Project launches the first psychedelic peer support line.
  • May – Psychedelic Experience launches a non-profit providing a global directory of psychedelic organizations and a resource hub for psychedelic safety and harm reduction.
  • May – A New York lawmaker introduced a bill on Tuesday that would require the state to establish an institute to research the therapeutic potential of psychedelics.  The legislation, sponsored by Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal (D), would create a state-sanctioned research institute to explore the therapeutic potential of certain psychedelics and also require regulators to issue recommendations on the medical value of such substances in the treatment of conditions such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • June – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott allowed a bill (H.B. 1802) authorizing the study of psilocybin to become law without his signature.
  • June –  Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamott (D) on June 7 signed a bill (S.B. 1083) permitting psilocybin research in that state.
  • June – The Maine House of Representatives on Thursday approved a bill to decriminalize possession of all currently illicit drugs, delivering a victory to reform advocates on the 50th anniversary of President Richard Nixon’s declaration of the war on drugs.  Later that month, The Maine Senate defeated a bill that would have decriminalized possession of all currently illicit drugs.  The setback for reform advocates comes two weeks after the legislation was narrowly approved in the House of Representatives. Despite attempts to compromise, the Senate rejected LD 967 in a 14-18 vote.
  • June – Harvard Law School on Wednesday announced the launch of a first-of-its-kind psychedelics policy center that it hopes will inform legislation and help clinicians navigate this burgeoning medical space as reform continues to advance.  The Project on Psychedelics Law and Regulation (POPLAR) will be a three-year effort designed to “promote safety, innovation and equity in psychedelics research, commerce and therapeutics,” according to a press release.
  • June – US Representatives Cory Bush (MO) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ) introduce the Drug Policy Reform Act in congress, a bill to decriminalize personal use of Schedule I and II drugs 50 years after former US President Richard Nixon declared a “War on Drugs.”  The bill calls for a harm reduction approach and seeks to reform various drug-related criminal justice policies.
  • July – A second California Assembly committee on Tuesday approved a Senate-passed bill to legalize possession of psychedelics like psilocybin and LSD. But new amendments that add limits on allowable amounts of the substances is creating controversy among advocates.  The Assembly Public Health Committee advanced the legislation, sponsored by Sen. Scott Wiener (D), in a 8-4 vote. This comes weeks after the Public Safety Committee approved the measure.  SB 519 would remove criminal penalties for possessing numerous psychedelics—including psilocybin mushrooms, DMT, ibogaine, LSD and MDMA—for adults 21 and older.
  • July – Another California city is pursuing a resolution to decriminalize psychedelics, with an Arcata City Council member agreeing to sponsor the measure.  Decriminalize Nature Humboldt announced on Friday that Councilmember Sarah Schaefer agreed to lead the resolution, which would make enforcement of laws against entheogenic substances like psilocybin and ibogaine among the city’s lowest law enforcement priorities.  The group says they plan to discuss the reform measure with other local lawmakers over the next month.
  • August – The Easthampton (Massachusetts) City Council is exploring a resolution to decriminalize a wide range of entheogenic substances. Passing the measure would mean that Easthampton would be the fourth city in Massachusetts to enact the reform.
  • August – Grand Rapids, Michigan, inches closer to decriminalizing entheogens and other substances. If approved, this would be the second Michigan city to pass psychedelics decriminalization, following the Ann Arbor City Council’s unanimous vote to pass a similar resolution last year.
  • August – Arcata, California, City Council’s Public Safety Committee advances a psychedelics reform resolution. The City Council will ultimately vote on the proposal, and if passed, Arcata will become the 3rd California city to enact psychedelic decriminalization.

Upcoming

  • David Bronner pushing for psychedelic legalization in 2022 Washington state election.  The second effort in Washington is a statewide initiative. David Bronner, the CEO of Dr. Bronner’s soap, is currently pushing for a ballot question regarding psychedelics. He wants voters to vote in the 2022 election to legalize medical psilocybin and to decriminalize drugs in the state.  Whether these reforms will be added to the ballot or not is unknown. But groups like Treatment First Washington are gathering signatures. They are pushing for a decriminalization measure similar to the one in Oregon. Their aim is for it to be added to the ballot for the 2022 election. 2.