Expert: Legalization of Psychedelic Medicine Could Help End Incarceration, Persecution of Certain Minorities

Alana Hippensteele, Editor

The historical and cultural foundations of the use of psychedelic drugs, the failure of the war on drugs in the United States, and multiple examples of other countries successfully legalizing psychedelics without societal problems developing as a result make a clear argument for the legalization of psychedelic medicine.

The historical and cultural foundations of the use of psychedelic drugs, the failure of the war on drugs in the United States, and multiple examples of other countries successfully legalizing psychedelics without societal problems developing as a result make a clear argument for the legalization of psychedelic medicine, according to Bia Labate, PhD, the executive director of Chacruna Institute and public education and culture specialist for Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. Labate reviewed the use of these medications in medical treatment during a debate discussing the legalization of psychedelics in the United States.

Throughout history, psychoactives have been used throughout the world, with nearly no known human society in recorded history that has not used psychedelics to experiment with altered states of consciousness, Labate explained.

“Psychedelics have also been central to several indigenous groups of the Americas and elsewhere,” Labate said during the debate. “Their sacred plants have helped them guide their culture, teach their younger generations, create socializations, celebration, identity, and territory, and has helped to explain the myths of why humanity is even on this planet.”

However, the use of psychedelics for awakening greater levels of consciousness is not exclusive to indigenous peoples of the Americas, as the ancient Greeks, and potentially also the early Christians, used it for similar purposes, according to Labate.

“You can find information on the ancient Greeks’ use of psychedelics in the mysteries of the Elysian Fields,” Labate said during the debate. “There’s also speculation on whether early Christians used psychedelics as well.”

Additionally, there is evidence of cannabis use that is more than 10,000 years old in China among populations there, and archeological evidence of the use of peyote over a period of 5000 years. Labate noted that in her career, she has specifically studied ayahuasca, the use of which is said to be an immemorial custom among the indigenous people of the Americas.

“We’re not inventing the wheel here. We’re talking about things that have deep roots in our nations, countries, and consciousness,” Labate said.

In terms of the war on drugs in the United States, Labate noted that the current schedule of drugs is not based on scientific research and is instead based on historical, cultural, and social reasons that have caused the division of substances into different categories.

“The drug war, we all know, is a moral and cultural war. It’s a war that lends itself to the language of religious dogma,” Labate said during the debate. “The drug war has also always been a war on minorities and a war on people. Moreover, the drug war is a racist war. It’s a way to persecute certain minorities. We have associated the Chinese with opium, associated Mexicans with cannabis, associated African Americans to crack cocaine, and associated Irish to alcohol. We have persecuted their habits because we can’t persecute them as people.”

Specifically, Labate explained that Black and Brown people in the United States are incarcerated 3 times more than their White peers for the use of the same drugs. In light of this and other issues, Labate noted that the war on drugs has been ineffective with innumerable costs to American lives.

Furthermore, drugs have been used frequently by politicians as a distraction from more important issues to society, such as education, housing, and health conditions, Labate explained during the debate.

“The drug war is a problematic enterprise that has not proven to work and has failed in its goals,” Labate said. “There are also examples across the world where legalization of psychedelics is working out fine.”

Labate explained that in Brazil, for example, the people have used ayahuasca legally since the very foundation of their culture.

“Brazilian ayahuasca religions are entirely incorporated into our societies, and the sky did not fall—we do not have a tragedy going on over there due to ayahuasca’s use. In Brazil, children go to ayahuasca rituals with their parents,” Labate said during the debate. “Also, in the Netherlands, they legalized psylocibin truffles and mushrooms, and the sky didn’t fall there either.”

REFERENCE

Labate B, Doblin R, Sabet K, Liberman J. Debate: Should Society Legalize Psychedelics? April 22, 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sKfwNZeMZG0. Accessed May 11, 2021.

Updated: May 14, 2021