Magical Mushrooms

Mark Kleiman has an excellent post on last year’s study that demonstrated the enormous power for psilocybin mushrooms to generate meaningful mystical experiences in churchgoers who had no previous experience with hallucinogens.

The results have potentially large importance for both law and policy.
Though psilocybe mushrooms grow wild in much of the country and are fairly easily cultivated, the psilocybin they contain is a Schedule I controlled substance, contraband except for specially-approved research purposes, and therefore so are the mushrooms themselves.
But the Supreme Court recently held (Gonzales v. O Centro) that the use of hallucinogens in religious ceremonies is protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and must be permitted unless there is a particularized showing of harm. It is well-established fact that psilocybin is neither addictive nor physically toxic, though it is not without psychological and behavioral risks, especially when used haphazardly.
If taking a dose of psilocybin under controlled conditions has a better-than-even chance of occasioning a full-blown mystical experience, it seems fairly hard to argue that forbidding such use doesn’t interfere with the free exercise of religion. How the courts will deal with those who want to seek out primary religious experience on an individual rather than a congregational basis remains to be seen.

“bullet” In other news, Kleiman manages to bring his usual strong analysis of the failings of government prohibition, without his all-too-common unsupported put-down of reformers, in this LA Times article about the situation in Mexico.

Despite the praise, the U.S. drug war “is nowhere on the political agenda,” said Mark Kleiman, a professor and director of UCLA’s Drug Policy Analysis Program. Kleiman argues that lack of political attention to drug policy is a good thing. “Politicians are incapable of dealing with it,” he said.
Despite high-profile arrests and record annual seizures, he said, a steady supply of cocaine, marijuana, heroin and methamphetamine has been available in the U.S. since President Nixon famously declared drugs to be America’s “public enemy No. 1.”

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