One of several positive midterm election stories that have emerged is that voters in two states embraced the idea of psychedelics as a more viable treatment for various forms of mental illness. It comes at a time when psilocybin in particular has been gaining traction to treat severe depression, PTSD and substance abuse. Oregonians greenlit Proposition 122, which decriminalizes psilocybin possession for adults and paves the way for state-licensed treatment centers to administer the drug under the supervision of trained staff. But here’s the rub: 25 of the state’s 36 counties voted against the ballot measure, along with several municipalities, and they’re actually allowed to opt out. Two arguments against the proposal involved skepticism over the state’s ability to establish rules that ensure safety and burdening law enforcement officers with the potential for drug abuse.
Prop 122 never would have passed without the support of voters in Portland and Salem, the two biggest cities that are liberal enclaves in a conservative state. The political climate in Oregon serves as a microcosm for the entire country with urban vs. rural areas clashing over culture wars. The Beaver State vote follows a successful effort in 2020 to legalize therapy involving the hallucinogenic substance in supervised facilities. Colorado followed suit, becoming the second state to establish a regulated system for psilocybin and psilocin, the hallucinogens found in some mushrooms, when voters passed Ballot Measure 109. The law, which takes effect in 2024, allows for other plant-based psychedelics to be added in 2026. It follows a 2019 initiative in Denver, which became the first U.S. city to decriminalize psilocybin.
Oregon and Colorado also helped lead the way to medical use of cannabis products, which is now legal in 37 states, along with the District of Columbia and three U.S. territories. Whatever the future holds for psychedelics as a means by which to treat mental illness, a growing body of research from esteemed institutions such as Johns Hopkins University suggests that these substances are a safer, healthier and more efficacious alternative to expensive pharmaceuticals with a long list of possible side effects. The Biden Administration anticipates that MDMA will receive FDA approval within the next two years as the first psychedelic-assisted treatment for mental illness. It’s time for all Americans to realize the War on Drugs has unfairly demonized some natural substances whose healing powers have been around for thousands of years.