The recent US primary election has passed by (more or less) with such a flurry of activity and dramatic lead stories that we’ve barely had a chance to talk about Oregon’s groundbreaking new measure. Oregon just decriminalized *ALL* drugs, being the first US state to do so. Decriminalization is not the same thing as legalization; merely it means that possession of controlled substances won’t be treated as a criminal matter anymore.
The news drew sharp reactions from around the media, but it’s not such a radical step as people make it out to be. Mere possession is no longer a prison-worthy crime. Possession with intent to sell, manufacture, transportation, cultivation, and trafficking are all still prosecuted. Oregon residents get to see the results of this measure starting February 1st, 2021.
Still, decriminalization was how we started on the road to cannabis legalization. Along with marijuana, there are plenty of drugs on the Controlled Substance List whose prohibition is questionable. Here, we’d like to speculate on a bit of forecasting to project which drug is the next candidate to be excluded from the War on Drugs.
Candidate #1: Shrooms
Properly called “psilocybin mushrooms,” “shrooms” are the next-best candidate for legalization.
- Shrooms are already fully legal in the Bahamas, Brazil, Jamaica, Nepal, the Netherlands, and Samoa.
- Roughly 50% of the nations in the world have either legalized shrooms for some uses, decriminalized shrooms, or do not enforce their prohibition.
- Several other major cities in US states and Washington D.C. also specifically decriminalize shrooms.
- There is little to no risk of a fatal overdose on psilocybin. You can have a really bad time on shrooms, but it’s nearly impossible for them to kill you.
According to the Psilocybin Mushrooms Fact Sheet published by the Drug Policy Alliance, psilocybin mushrooms are among the least toxic drugs known, have no long-term physical health risks, and are not physically addictive. The sole trouble with psilocybin is the behavior of the subject ingesting it, whose judgment is often impaired and whom might engage in harmful or reckless behavior without supervision.
Psilocybin and substances like it have long been the subject of research inquiring into their use in treatment of psychiatric disorders. Just last month, a Johns Hopkins study concluded that psilocybin helps treat depression. Johns Hopkins has been leading the way in renewed interest in using psychedelics to treat mental disorders.
How likely is it that shrooms would be legalized? If they were legalized, they would need much more regulation than cannabis has currently. You could conceivably be stoned on pot and still function in society. But there is a sufficient dose of psilocybin for everyone that will leave them a babbling mess. A person experiencing a bad trip is arguably a danger to themselves or others in public. Be that as it may, responsible and considerate adult use of shrooms should be as benevolent to society as cannabis use is now.
Candidate #2: Other Psychedelics
We can’t take up the space to list each and every psychedelic in detail, but most of the arguments for psilocybin mushrooms apply equally to other psychedelic substances anyway. We can say almost exactly the same things for LSD as psilocybin, for instance.
Other psychedelics which fit the same class as shrooms include:
- DMT – Dimethyltryptamine is characterized as having a more intense effect than LSD or shrooms, but for a shorter duration.
- Peyote – Another naturally-occurring psychedelic plant, which already enjoys legal protection in the United States among native peoples under the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978. Peyote’s chief active ingredient is mescaline.
- Ayahuasca – Another indigenous traditional psychedelic, common in South America.
- Mescaline – The chemical itself, also found in several other native plants in North America.
Most of the canonical psychedelic drugs have similar effects, and are the subject of similar clinical studies to shrooms and LSD.
Candidate #3: Kratom
Kratom is not currently technically illegal at the federal level, although the DEA muddied the waters a few years back by announcing that they would add it to the Controlled Substances list, then promptly withdrew it. Various US states have laws controlling kratom.
Kratom is said to have more therapeutic uses than recreational. The biggest use touted is for treatment of opiate withdrawals and symptoms. Your humble author volunteered himself as a guinea pig to experiment with kratom a while back, and I, for one, think this stuff is as harmless as milk (not to mention having just as much of a psychoactive effect).
There is nevertheless a vocal kratom advocacy movement out there, insisting that “kratom saves lives” from opium addictions. Maybe it’s got some merit, or maybe we’ve all been tricked into eating ordinary tea leaves, but anyway, prohibition makes no sense.
Candidate #4: Salvia Divinorum
Like kratom, salvia is not technically illegal at the federal level, which may come as a surprise given how uncommon it is. However, it is also banned in most US states. We don’t lump it in with the other psychedelics because it’s an atypical psychedelic, with vastly different effects reported. Basically, like kratom, your mileage may apparently vary.
The biggest reason why salvia legalization may be a non-issue is that it’s just so obscure. It is little-known in the US, native only to Mexico, and the places where it is sold legally are almost certainly putting up bunk. Not only that, but people who have tried salvia say that it’s actually no fun!
After all, nutmeg (yes, like in your spicerack) also has psychoactive properties, but the effects are so unpleasant that nobody needs to worry about it. That only happens in big doses, by the way. Your pumpkin spice latte is not psychoactive.
Candidate #5: Khat
Khat is well-known as a stimulant drug whose chief active ingredient is cathinone. It is on the Controlled Substance list in the US at level 1, and is illegal or regulated in much of the world. There is very little argument for changing this situation, except that it is reported to be milder than comparable amphetamines, and is part of the same chemical family as the antidepressant bupropion.
The chief barrier to khat changing its status in the US is that it’s only native to the Middle East and parts of Africa, where it is widely sold and chewed by the bushel with the same freedom as how we enjoy caffeine. Reportedly, it loses its potency fast if it’s not fresh, so it also doesn’t import well. And finally, it’s basically a weaker kind of methamphetamine, but still far stronger than coffee and other legal stimulants.
Seeing how Oregon plays out…
Regardless of their federal legal statuses, all drugs are about to experience open season in the state of Oregon starting next February 1st, as far as law enforcement goes. We’re about to see a live test of everybody’s theory about any kind of drug and its effects on society. One thing is for sure, drug decriminalization is an idea getting unanimous support across the political spectrum, increasing in the US with every passing year.
Readers, where do you stand on the legal drug spectrum? Should more drugs be legalized? Should they ALL be legalized? Will Oregon’s policy open the door to more relaxed drug regulation to come? Share your opinions in the comments or in our forum.