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Altered States of America

This election shows America may be united in favor of plant-based healing.

Sarah Rose Siskind, used with permission
Source: Sarah Rose Siskind, used with permission

This week, landmark initiatives passed across the country to legalize and decriminalize plant-based psychoactive substances. In short, plan to visit Oregon in two years. Here is a lengthier recap of the legislation passed and ruminations on how they will create wider access to better treatments for mental health.

Oregon Trail Blazing

Oregon has had a tough year with the forest fires on top of the lockdown on top of the Trailblazers losing in the semifinals. Plus, in Portland, conversations about race didn’t seem so polite and stress-free. It was time for some good news. Starting in 2021, all drug possession will be decriminalized in Oregon and psilocybin will be medically available in two years for adults 21 and over with mental health conditions. Given everything that occurred in 2020, the pool of applicants with “mental health conditions” may be wide enough to include any adult survivor of the year 2020.

Just this week, a new major study was published, demonstrating how psilocybin, the active component in magic mushrooms, alleviates depressive symptoms. Psilocybin is, in fact, four times as effective as antidepressants. Previous studies have shown how clinical administration of psilocybin correlates with significant reductions in symptoms of addiction, anxiety, OCD, anorexia, and other mental health disorders. Additionally, psilocybin can cure AB-FNBOM: acute boredom from not being on mushrooms.

The consequences of medically administered psilocybin are revolutionary. First and foremost, there will be wider access to a promising treatment. Your grandma usually doesn’t have the right hookup for an underground therapy session. So risk-averse populations, in general, will have access to a newly legal treatment option.

With legalization, new patients won’t have to worry about correctly sourcing the right chemical. The last thing a patient treating anxiety should have to worry about is the purity of the product they’re consuming. Plus, given the Oregon craft brewery scene, I imagine it will be a matter of time before there are artisanal, fair-trade, ultra-organic mushroom options.

Washington DC: Entheogens in the Swamp

In 1970 during the Nixon administration, Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane lived up to her name and got close to dosing the White House Tea with LSD. Not since then have psychedelics gotten so close to the White House.

Pending congressional review, all plant-based drugs are decriminalized in Washington DC. These include ayahuasca, iboga, peyote, and mushrooms which, every mycophile-nerd gleefully notes, is a fungus, not a plant. It should be noted that the measure could still be shot down if Congress decides not to enforce the people’s decision, which has happened before when Congress refused to even count DC's vote for a marijuana legalization initiative in 1999.

What consequence will come to bear with these psychedelics’ greater proximity to the seats of power in our government? For one thing, all government employees in a 10-mile radius may find it a lot harder to pass their regular drug screenings. But it is easier to consider the effects of government on psychedelic use than the effects of psychedelic use on government.

The decriminalization of tripping may have some major consequences for the experience itself. For example, explorers may have no need to repeatedly ask their shamans if they’re wearing a wire, as is custom. In general, paranoia may decrease as the punishment for being caught is reduced. This may greatly enhance a psychedelic experience.

Another great upshot of decriminalization is that psychonauts may feel a greater inclination to go to the hospital without fearing criminal charges. Though it’s true that most plant-based entheogens do not have a lethal dose and most physical effects are minor.

The greatest therapeutic benefit of decriminalization is that patients may integrate widely. Discussions of psychedelic experiences may occur across wider platforms and more diverse populations. This may help to solidify the process of integration, to garner therapeutic insight from an intense psychedelic experience.

Marijuana Across the Country

Marijuana is now legal recreationally in New Jersey, South Dakota, Arizona, Montana, and medically available in Minnesota. This now brings the total number of states with recreational marijuana to 15 and 35 with medical marijuana. This may explain a recent spike in New Jersey-based Google searches for “how to roll a joint.”

At this point for many, nationally legalized pot is a fait accompli and these recent electoral victories already seem passé. Yet this is a crucial step towards the uniting of this country. The people of these United States are reaching an important consensus about prioritizing mental health and cognitive freedom.

Just in time too. Mental health has declined precipitously as anxiety and depression have skyrocketed during the pandemic. The strain of simply getting through this election season is enough to warrant the need for the substances recently legalized! Or, to put it another way: Politics is like a virus that creates both the disease and the antibodies needed to create a vaccine to cure itself. If viruses were on your mind for some reason.

Marijuana and psychedelics more broadly may prove crucial in recovering from the 2020 election. These mind-altering substances are key to a feeling of “one-ness” that may help unite a fractured nation. Now that your grandma and her tax accountant may pursue their spiritual journeys, we may grieve the loss of “coolness” and exclusivity in our national drug use. But in its place will be greater access to better mental health treatments and perhaps, a feeling of unity.