“Psychedelics are illegal not because a loving government is concerned that you may
jump out of a third story window. Psychedelics are illegal because they
dissolve opinion structures and culturally laid down models
of behavior and information processing. They open you up
to the possibility that everything you know is wrong.”
– Terrence McKenna
In the 2018-2019 annual report conducted by Prison Policy Initiative, the total number of inmates incarcerated in the US was 2,162,400. The incarceration rate in the US is 698 per 100,000 individuals. In Washington State, the incarceration rate is 480 per 100,000 individuals. A report by the Washington State Department of Corrections estimates that the average daily cost per individual inmate is $112.96. The annual prison spending average in Washington State is $669 million dollars.
In Washington State, according to Chapter 69.50.401 RCW, the penalty for possession of Schedule 1 hallucinogens (psilocybin, ibogaine, DMT, etc.) is “10 years imprisonment, a fine of $25,000, or both.” This is considered a Class B felony and the punishment is more strict for repeated offenders. In 2018, Native Americans and Alaskan-natives in Washington State accounted for 3.4% of drug arrests, while only making up 1.9% of population. (Prison Policy)
According to the 2018 Crime in Washington report, the number arrested for drug abuse violations reached almost 12,000 arrests. Sixty-five percent of the jail population are diagnosable for substance abuse disorder (SAD). Sixty percent of local jails in Washington State are holding people that are legally innocent, un-convicted, and waiting pre-trial. Only ten percent of individuals incarcerated are covered by pretrial risk assessments. Three-day pre-trial detainments have an impact on housing, finances, employment, and dependent children care.
Low-level crimes where SAD and mental health issues are involved should be made into treatment-based diversion. Movements such as Treatment First Washington are pushing for such interventions. According to Treatment First Washington’s website, “one in every five incarcerated individuals have a drug related charge.” Drug Policy Alliance’s report on the Opioid Overdose states that one in four deaths are related to opioid overdoses. In 2018 Washington providers wrote 49 opioid prescriptions for every 100 persons. The US average is 51. Two people die of an opioid-related overdose every day in Washington. Thousands struggle with addiction. Instead of incarcerating these individuals that need treatment, we should be implementing treatment-based solutions. Recent studies have shown that entheogens such as Ibogaine have been effective at reducing opioid-dependence. There is a different way.
Before the “War on Drugs”
1870s: Opium laws were directed at Chinese immigrants.
Early 1900s: Anti-cocaine laws targeted Black men in the South.
1910s – 1920s: Anti-marijuana laws targeted Mexican migrants and Mexican-Americans in the Midwest and Southwest in the 1910’s and 1920’s.
September 18, 1914: Science magazine published a first-hand experience report of ingesting psilocybin mushrooms.
1919: Mexican ethnobotanist, Dr. Blas Reko, published an article that teonanacatl was a hallucinogenic mushroom. His report was ignored.
1924: Louis Lewin published Phantastica a milestone book on psychopharmacology, the study of substances that influence mental states.
1938: A small group of anthropologists were the first Caucasians to attend a mushroom ceremony in Huatla, Oaxaca.
1939: Teonanacatl was described as a psilocybin-containing mushroom according to a paper published by Richard Evans Schultes.
1951: The Boggs Act set the precedent for mandatory minimum sentence laws that would create more problems during the “war on drugs.”
1953: A mushroom ritual in Oaxaca, Mexico invited amateur mycologist R. Gordon Wasson.
1953: CIA project “MK Ultra” researched the use of LSD and other drugs for mind control, information gathering, and psychological torture.
May 13, 1957: Psilocybin Mexicana, by R. Gordon and Valentina Wasson, was published by Life magazine. This article popularized psychedelics in America.
1957: The chemical structure of ibogaine was published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
1958: Psilocybin and psilocin were named by Albert Hofmann, Swiss chemist known for learning the psychedelic effects of LSD.
1960: 2mg psilocybin pills, called Indocybin, were produced by Sandoz Pharmaceutical.
1962: Maria Sabina was gifted a bottle of Indocybin by R Gordon Wasson and Albert Hofmann. Albert Hofmann synthesized the pills at Sandoz.
1962-1963: Ibogaine’s effects were studied by American scientific researcher, Howard Lotsof, to treat the addiction of cocaine and heroin.
1965: Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act included hallucinogenic drugs in an amendment. The specific hallucinogenic drugs were not listed.
1966: The complete chemical makeup of ibogaine was published by Professor George Buchi at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
October 24, 1968: Possession of ibogaine was banned in U.S.
“You want to know what this was really about? The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and Black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and Blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meeting and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
-John Ehrlichman, Top Nixon aide
During the “War on Drugs”
1970: A Key to North American Psilocybin Mushroom was published by Leonard Eros. It instructed novice foragers to identify psilocybin mushrooms in nature.
1970: The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) classified marijuana, psilocybin, DMT, and other hallucinogens as Schedule 1 drugs. They were deemed to have no acceptable “medical use,” potential for high abuse, and were considered unsafe to use.
1971: The term “War on Drugs” was coined by President Richard Nixon. Drug abuse became “public enemy number 1.”
1971: Enthnobotanist Terrence McKenna tried psilocybin mushrooms for the first time.
1972: DMT was discovered to occur naturally in the brain by American biochemist Julius Axelrod from the National Institutes of Health.
1973: MK Ultra projects ended. Chief Chemist Sidney Gottlieb destroyed most records and concluded that “psychoactive drugs are too unpredictable in their effect on individual human beings, under specific circumstances, to be operationally useful.”
1973: The DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) was established as a special police force used to target illegal drug use and smuggling in the United States. The DEA was given 1,470 agents at its start, with a budget of less than $75 million. The DEA today has about 5,000 special agents and a budget of $2 billion.
1976: The Magic Mushroom Grower’s Guide by Terrence and Dennis McKenna was published and suggested otherworldly origin of Stropharia cubensis.
1983: Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E) was started in Los Angeles.
1985: A patent was granted to Howard Lotsoff for the use of ibogaine as an opioid detox by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
1986: Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) was founded by Rick Doblin. MAPS continues to support psychedelic research, noting the safety and benefits of psilocybin, LSD, and MDMA-assisted psychotherapy.
1990-1995: With approval from the DEA, Dr. Rick Strassman started a five-year clinical study where he administered DMT to 60 volunteers. He later wrote DMT: The Spirit Molecule based off his studies.
1992: Food for the Gods, by Terrence McKenna was published.
1993: Heffter Research Institute was launched by David Nichols. It continues to fund psychedelic research.
1995: The first description of Psilocybe azurescens, which is considered the largest and most potent of Psilocybe mushrooms, was published by Paul Stamets. It was first discovered in Astoria, Oregon in 1979 by a group of Boy Scouts.
October 1, 1996: Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World, by Paul Stametis, was published.
June 1999: Synthesis, a scientific journal published by David Nichols improved upon the method for synthesizing psilocybin.
1999: Santo Daime was prosecuted for a shipment of its sacrament daime (ayahuasca), but won its case at the appellate level. Only certain Santo Daime churches are allowed to serve daime.
2000: Dr. Roland Griffiths at John Hopkins University started a research program that investigates the effects of psilocybin.
2001: DMT: The Spirit Molecule was published.
2004: Ibogaine: Rite of Passage, a documentary, was released.
2006: The Supreme Court ruled that the members of the church of União do Vegetal (UDV) “Union of Plants”are protected in their right to use/drink ayahuasca brew in their services, under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
2007: Entheogen the documentary was released.
2009: Metamorphosis: The Ayahuasca Ceremony of the Amazon, a documentary, was released.
2010: DMT: The Spirit Molecule, a documentary based off a book of the same name, was released.
January 19, 2011: 5-Me-O-DMT was made a Schedule 1 drug.
2011: The advocacy for micro-dosing small doses of psychedelics was popularized by Dr. James Fadiman in The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide.
2015 – 2016: Ayahuasca Healings claimed to be the ‘First Legal Ayahuasca Church’ using a religious exemption, but it never gained approval by the DEA and shut down.
2018: Microdosing Psychedelics: A Practical Guide to Upgrade Your Life, written by Paul Austin, was published. It is a guide to anyone interested in micro-dosing to improve one’s general well-being. This book especially targeted those in leadership and creative positions.
March 2, 2019: Medical Psychedelics by Dr. Oliver Hovmand became the first evidence-based textbook to examine psychedelics in a clinical setting.
2019: 17 million dollars was donated to John Hopkins University to start the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research. This is believed to be the first and largest research center of its kind.
May 9, 2019: Denver, Colorado because the first US city to decriminalize the cultivation, possession, and use of psilocybin mushrooms.
June 5, 2019: Oakland, California decriminalized the possession and use of entheogenic plants and fungi containing psychedelic compounds including: DMT, ibogaine, mescaline, and psilocybin.
January 28, 2020: Santa Cruz, California decriminalized the growing and possession of psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca, and ibogaine.
July 3, 2020: District of Columbia, United States is to include Decriminalize entheogens on November’s ballot.
As of 2020, nearly 100 US
cities have initiatives to