In the 1960s the legislation of psychedelic plants and their compounds was a heated debate, and with the current fervent support and opposition of medical and legal marijuana in the United States it is a good time to once again to beg the question; should all psychedelic plants and their compounds be legalized?
Some might answer that all plants should be legalized, regardless of their function. However, there are deep philosophical and psychological questions that need to be addressed in order to gain a holistic viewpoint of the current situation regarding psychedelics.
Psychologically, psychedelic plants and their compounds can have life changing and profound effects on their user. People may feel that they have spoken or been spoken to by a higher being, been in contact with aliens or a bevy of other wholly “other” happenings far outside of the normal realm of day to day human experience and perception. These experiences generally end well for people, and in the cases when they do not the bad experiences are temporary and the effects usually dissipate in 12-24 hours. For some people with latent psychological conditions or already present mental health issues, the use of these substances can have very dangerous consequences, even sometimes resulting in lifelong psychosis, and sometimes catatonic states. Generally speaking though, people with no history of mental health issues, who live a relatively stress free lifestyle do not typically have long lasting ill effects as a result of their use of psychedelics. The problem is though, that identifying a mental health issue and then seeking out treatment for it is very difficult, hence the prevalence of stories like the ones of Acid Casualties of the 1960s which are still experienced in the Haight Ashbury area of San Francisco today.
Philosophically, the question rests firmly on human beings inherent right, or lack thereof to cultivate any seed, plant or fungus. Some believe that no matter what the plant it is arrogant to try and regulate it or make it illegal, because nature is not something we made up, nor something we have any true authority or control over. However, some might be quick to point out again that some plants have serious negative health effects and can have horrible social implications, such as in the case of Timothy Leary and his “turn on, tune in, drop out” message.
Some theology scholars might be quick to highlight that there is a verse in the bible that supports the view that all plants that are edible and natural may be used by man. Genesis 1:29 :
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.”
Is it truly our right to grow and posses whatever plants we so choose, or is it necessary for the governments of the world to regulate these things in hopes of limiting the harmful and hazardous effects these substances can easily have when used with little regard for safety or medical benefit?
Regardless of what position you take concerning the issue of psychedelic plants and their legality and regulation, the issue does not seem to be going away anytime soon. Since 2000, there have been many in the psychological community and profession who have campaigned for the right to conduct clinical research regarding psychedelics and their possible applications in psychotherapy sessions. On the flip side, people are still receiving long prison sentences for a few hits of LSD or a small amount of marijuana and we still know little about many of these substances because of the lack of legal approval for clinical research regarding them. It is important for us to at least debate this right now because we are at a time in our history where we need all the best ideas and viewpoints to be laid out on the table.