Oregon was the first state to legalize psilocybin in the United States, according to MarijuanaDoctors.com. But only for medical or clinical therapies. Residents in Oregon won’t be able to go to a recreational or medical dispensary and get some dried or fresh psychedelic mushrooms. Or products derived from psilocybin.
There is increasing interest in using psilocybin for life-saving mental health therapies. Patients with clinical anxiety and depression may respond to prescription medications and talk-therapy. However, for a percentage of the American population that experiences Treatment-Resistant Depression (TRD) or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), standard therapies may not work.
For people who cannot resolve their mental health struggles, the risk of suicide and self-harm increases substantially. And while there is still much research to be done to understand how psychedelics can provide mental health benefits. Nonetheless, some states are moving ahead to explore psilocybin as the next possible frontier of mental health treatment.
In November 2020, New Jersey lawmakers tried to propose legislation that would legalize recreational (adult-use) cannabis. But the law also included several new changes that would decriminalize cannabis possession. And also reduce the penalty for possession of psychedelic mushrooms. It seemed that New Jersey was ready to legalize recreational pot, but not psychedelics. And the pushback was unexpected.
Are New Jersey lawmakers ready to legalize psychedelics for medicinal use? Maybe. For recreational use? Unlikely. But the new decriminalization of psychedelics will make it possible for new therapies. Clinics that could provide “mushroom trips” under physician supervision. A new way to penetrate treatment-resistant depression and the most severe diagnoses of PTSD. And hope for patients who have not responded to any other kind of mental health therapy.
John Hopkins Founds The Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research Department
In 2020, Johns Hopkins received a $17 million grant from citizens and private donors. The funds would establish the new Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research Department. Because psilocybin is a prohibited substance, research into mushrooms and other psychedelics has been limited. Human trials were not permitted, and access to psilocybin (for clinical study) was a criminal offense.
That is now starting to change. In the year 2000, a research group at Johns Hopkins was the first to get regulatory approval from the federal government to start psychedelic research. The initial clinical human studies did not involve people with mental health disorders; they were healthy volunteers. In 2006, the result of the clinical trials was published by Johns Hopkins. The long-term positive effects of psilocybin therapies were discussed. And new interest in medical applications for psychedelics surged.
Since 2006, Johns Hopkins researchers have been busy! There have been more than 60 peer-reviewed clinical studies published in journals. And Johns Hopkins is now recognized as the leading American research institution regarding medical applications for psychedelic treatments.
The studies have suggested the use of psilocybin therapies for the treatment of:
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Addiction therapy
- Treatment of Lyme Disease Syndrome
- Anorexia Nervosa
- Treatment-Resistant Depression (TRD)
The concept is that some traumas or repressed memories can be unlocked with psychedelic treatments. And since patients who do not respond to traditional therapies can be at a higher risk of suicide, a new approach could be lifesaving.
What is Psilocybin, and How Does it Affect the Human Body?
The scientific name for psilocybin is 4-phosphoryloxy-N, N-dimethyltryptamine. The combined compounds are sourced from specific types of mushrooms that grow in Mexico, South America, and certain areas of the United States.
In terms of drug or controlled substance classifications, psilocybin is an indole-alkylamine (tryptamine). And the compounds are remarkably similar to lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). When consumed, the mushrooms (dried or fresh) create hallucinogenic effects. They specifically target the 5-HT receptors that help regulate serotonin. The hormone responsible for feelings of euphoria, relaxation, and happiness.
Throughout human history, hallucinogenic mushrooms have been used for medicinal and recreational purposes. Native cultures used mushrooms and peyote for the same purposes. To create a religious experience of psychedelic proportions.
Psilocybin mushrooms have a variety of different “street” names. They have been called shrooms, magic mushrooms, liberty caps, mushies, and Philosopher’s Stones. Psychedelic mushrooms are classified as prohibited on the American Controlled Substances Act. Since 1971, psilocybin has been listed as a Schedule 1 drug by the U.N. Convention of Psychotropic Substances. And they are currently listed as having no “known medicinal use.”
Compared to other Schedule 1 drugs, the potential of abuse is far lower. A mushroom trip is described as a psychedelic experience. Psilocybin in a clinical health setting is administered by an oral solution or by injection. The effects (depending on potency and dose) can last up to fifteen hours. The most pronounced psychedelic effects present within the first five hours after consumption.
What Countries Have Legalized Psilocybin for Consumer Use?
Because of the profound intoxicating and psychosomatic effects of psilocybin, most countries have listed it as a prohibited substance. It is illegal to grow, purchase, sell, or consume. And criminal charges for psilocybin are similar to any other kind of prohibited Schedule 1 drug.
Some countries have fully legalized psilocybin. It is available to consumers and also for the purpose of psychedelic tourism. Resorts with medical facilities are popping up around the world to give vacationers a truly spiritual psychedelic experience.
Psilocybin is fully legalized in the following countries:
Many countries still prohibit psilocybin; however, they have also decriminalized it. That means possession or cultivation is still a crime but treated more like a ticket (monetary fine) rather than a misdemeanor or felony offense.
In the Netherlands, psilocybin-derived edibles are sold in dispensaries. They are processed into oils and capsules as well for therapeutic or recreational use. That kind of non-clinical use of psychedelics is something we probably won’t see in the U.S., Or at least for a long time. But medical, mental health treatments using psilocybin may be just around the corner in the United States.
What Does Decriminalization of Psilocybin Mean in New Jersey?
On February 4, 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy (D) signed the psilocybin reform bill, A 5084 / S3256, into law. The original fine for using psilocybin was a penalty of three to five years of incarceration and $15,000. After decriminalization, a possession charge of small or personal use amounts will be subject to a maximum $1,000 fine and a maximum sentence of six months.
That’s a big difference. According to an article in Marijuana Moment, the new penalty for possession of psychedelic mushrooms will be on par with a shoplifting, harassment, or resisting arrest charge. Still, a deterrent but not catastrophic should someone be charged in New Jersey.
Governor Murphy and lawmakers in NJ tried to include this amendment with the recreational marijuana bill. However, it had to be removed as lawmakers said that it should not be included in the recreational legalization of marijuana. So, the bill was created under a separate measure and then signed into law.
That means for patients with severe trauma and mental health disorders; another treatment option is on the horizon. The decriminalization opens the door to psychedelic clinics that can help treat patients and provide ongoing therapeutic support.
Other States Changing Laws Regarding Magic Mushrooms
The new legislation will allow psilocybin to be administered by medical clinics for approved mental health therapies. New Jersey is not the only state to make this move. Oregon voters chose to legalize psilocybin for medical use during the November 2020 election. Florida and Hawaii announced in February 2021 that they would proceed with similar legislation. And Connecticut has created a workgroup to evaluate the legalization of psilocybin for the state.
In some states, major metropolitan cities are moving ahead with the regional decriminalization of psilocybin and not waiting for state lawmakers to move the dial. Marijuana Moment reported that Cambridge and Somerville, Massachusetts, had taken the step to decriminalize the plant and fungi-based psychedelics. And advised law enforcement to deprioritize arrests for personal use.