What are Psychedelics, How Were They “Discovered”, and What is Their Current Legal Status?
It may be obvious, but still worth stating, that psychedelics (in natural forms) predate written history and evidence shows they were used in early cultures in many different social and religious contexts. But the history of how psychedelics became culturally known in the modern era, through focused use in research and society, is interesting.
The term was coined in the 1950s by English psychiatrist and researcher Humphrey Osmond to denote a category of natural and chemical compounds like psilocybin mushrooms, LSD and mescaline—the psychoactive ingredient of the peyote cactus. Osmond was a friend and contemporary of renowned author Aldous Huxley—who wrote Brave New World and Doors of Perception, the latter an autobiographical account expounding upon his personal experiences with mescaline. Osmond was a pioneer of early western medical research into the healing potential of such substances, particularly for mental health maladies like depression and schizophrenia.
Studies and evidence were showing that psychedelics had the effect of remapping cognitive patterns and resetting one’s approach to life. They had the documented effect of assisting one’s mental well-being and happiness, not only in the moment but after treatment with psychedelics. Studies were showing happiness…imagine that.
Despite encouraging results from medical researchers and despite the fact that many indigenous cultures have used psychedelic plant medicines like peyote, ibogaine, and ayahuasca for thousands of years, all scientific and medical research into these substances was abruptly halted in the 1960s. Spurred by public and political fear exacerbated by high-profile counter-culture figures like Harvard professor Timothy Leary, the federal government outlawed virtually all known psychedelics during the 1960s, and the states followed shortly thereafter.
As a result of this prohibitionist approach, much like cannabis, most psychedelics were classified as a Schedule I drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act, the most restrictive category reserved for dangerous drugs that have “no accepted medical use” and a “high potential for abuse”, and they remain federally prohibited today.
Change is occurring. Psychedelics are increasingly emerging as a hot topic in the realm of both medical research and legal/policy reform. On the legal side of things, a new bar association has recently been formed, the Psychedelic Bar Association (“PBA”). JRG Attorneys are among the founding members and presented at the PBA’s inaugural Summit. We also attended the Psychedelics Business Forum held recently in Las Vegas.
JRG has been at the forefront of the changes in cannabis law and policy from the very early days, representing, advising and advocating for legacy farmers, patients, early adopters and entrepreneurs, and we are now similarly engaging deeply with the extended psychedelic community. There is increasing interest among our clients who seek emerging markets and who desire to engage in changing the dialogue and policies related to cannabis and psychedelics, especially in the face of evidence of the significant benefits to those with PTSD. Our firm is committed to engaging in the discussion and assisting those who seek legal status in this quickly evolving field.
Stay tuned for the next installment in this new JRG blog series for the latest updates on the medical research and legal and policy shifts already underway that present opportunities to help shape and participate in the emerging psychedelics and plant medicine ecosphere.
Most Psychedelic substances remain illegal under federal and/or state laws. Consumption, possession, cultivation, distribution, manufacturing or dispensing of psychedelics may be punishable by imprisonment and/or fines. Moreover, federal law is enforceable by the federal government notwithstanding any state and local laws that allow any such conduct that federal law prohibits. Consistent with California State Bar ethical rules, neither JRG nor any attorney associated with JRG will encourage or assist conduct that violates state and federal laws prohibiting psychedelics. The content on this website does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as legal advice by any person.