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Psychedelics

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Chronicle AM: MI Jail Task Force Recommendations, Congress Wants Answers on Meth and Cocaine ODs, More... (1/15/20)

The Czech Pirate Party reaches for the stars, House members want answers from the administration about rising meth and cocaine deaths, and more.

A Michigan task force releases recommendations on cutting jail populations in the state. (Creative Commons)
Stimulants

Congressional Concern Over Rising Cocaine, Meth Overdose Deaths. The leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee are calling on the Trump administration to brief them on rising cocaine and methamphetamine deaths and what it is doing about them by early next month. Deaths involving both drugs increased by more than 30% in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "We are concerned that while the nation, rightly so, is devoting much of its attention and resources to the opioid epidemic, another epidemic -- this one involving cocaine and methamphetamine -- is on the rise," wrote Reps. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), Greg Walden (R-OR), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Michael Burgess (R-Texas), Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Brett Guthrie (R-KY). The lawmakers requested briefings from the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Homeland Security and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Criminal Justice

Michigan Jail Task Force Releases Recommendations. A bipartisan task force created last year by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) has released its recommendations for reducing the state's jail populations. The Jail and Pretrial Incarceration Task Force report came up with 18 recommendations, including reducing the number of driver's license revocations for people dealing with crimes unrelated to traffic safety; expanding police discretion to write tickets instead of arresting and taking people to jail; providing crisis response training for law enforcement; and incentivize programs; creating partnerships between law enforcement and treatment providers to divert people with behavioral health needs from the system both before and after arrest, strengthening the presumption of pre-trial release on personal recognizance, and releasing people arrested on certain nonviolent charges prior to arraignment.

Drug Policy

Idaho Bill Would Decriminalize Drug Use, Allow Civil Commitment for Drug Abuse. State Sen. Grant Burgoyne (D-Boise) has introduced SB 1222, which would decriminalize drug use in private places while at the same time allowing civil commitments for drug abuse. The bill would change the state's criminal code by amending the penalties for drug possession so that they only apply to drug possession with intent to deliver, effectively decriminalizing drug possession. The bill is a private member's bill and unlikely to even get a committee hearing, but Burgoyne said he was "hopeful that my legislation will start the conversation with lawmakers, law enforcement, and others about how we treat Idahoans, especially young Idahoans, who are suffering from drug addiction."

International

Czech Pirate Party to Push for Legalization of Marijuana; Prescribed Access to Ecstasy, Magic Mushrooms, LSD. Opposition MP Tomas Vymazal of the Pirate Party has announced plans to file legislation that would legalize recreational use of marijuana and allow doctors to prescribe psychedelics such as LSD, MDMA, and psilocybin. "Similar to the current practice of cannabis prescriptions, specialized medical workplaces would be able to prescribe the [above] substances," Vymazal said. The plan is opposed by the Health Ministry. The Pirate Party holds 22 seats in the 200-seat chamber of deputies.

Chronicle AM: Portland Decriminalize Nature Signature Gathering Gets Underway, More... (12/24/19)

Portland, Oregon, sees a psychedelic decriminalization initiative begin signature gathering, and more.

Decriminalize Nature movement logo
Psychedelics

Portland, Oregon, Activists Begin Gathering Signatures for Psychedelics Decriminalization Measure. The activist group Decriminalize Nature Portland has begun the task of gathering some 38,000 valid voter signatures by July 6 to put a municipal initiative on the ballot to decriminalize a number of psychedelics, including magic mushrooms and ayahuasca. The measure would bar the use of city funds to enforce any laws against the personal use and cultivation of natural psychedelics.

International

Dublin Takes a Step Toward Opening a Safe Injection Site. What could be Ireland's first safe injection site has moved a step closer to reality as a Dublin planning appeals tribunal has overruled city council planners and approved a facility on the city's inner south side. The NGO Merchants Quay Ireland had moved to set up the first such site in the country after a 2017 law allowed drug users to be exempt from drug possession charges at a designated safe injection site, but Dublin city planners had blocked the move, citing NIMBY concerns from local residents and businesses.

Chronicle AM: US Afghan Opium Fiasco, New Zealand LSD Microdosing Trials, More... (12/11/19)

Expungements for past minor pot offenses are beginning in Chicago, clinical trials on LSD microdosing are about to get underway in New Zealand, Kentucky's new Democratic governor moves to restore voting rights for ex-felons, and more.

The opium poppy defeated all American efforts to suppress it in Afghanistan, US officials have conceded. (UNODC)
Marijuana Policy

Illinois' Largest County Begins Marijuana Expungements. Cook County (Chicago) State's Attorney Kim Foxx filed the first motions Wednesday to expunge past low-level marijuana convictions under provisions of the state's marijuana legalization law. The law allows for people convicted of possession of under 30 grams prior to legalization to have their records referred for pardon and expungement, providing they were nonviolent offenses. People convicted of possession of more than 30 grams or who committed a violent offense will have to have their convictions reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Hundreds of thousands could see their convictions cleared.

Vermont Should Legalize Marijuana Sales, Top Health Official Says. Cynthia Seivwright, director of the state Department of Health’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs, said Monday allowing legal marijuana sales in the state would better protect public health than current policy does. The state has legalized possession and cultivation, but not sales. "Without the regulation, we don’t know what’s in it," Seivwright said. "We can’t control the potency of it. We can’t control the access, and we definitely don’t want children and adolescents to have access to it….We at the Health Department support a regulated system."

Psychedelics

New Zealand to Host First Clinical Trial on LSD Microdosing. Researchers at the University of Auckland have received final approval for clinical trials on the effects of microdosing. The researchers aim to discover whether microdosing can have positive effects on mood, creativity, and awareness. "Users report improvements in mood, wellbeing, improved attention and cognition, so those are the things we will be measuring… We’ll be giving microdoses on very tightly controlled prescriptions to take at home — it’ll be a more realistic assessment of what microdosing actually does," said lead researcher Suresh Muthukumaraswamy

Foreign Policy

Documents Show US Officials Said Almost Everything They Did to Fight Opium in Afghanistan Backfired. In a cache of confidential government interviews and other documents obtained by the Washington Post, dozens of American military and political officials admitted that their efforts to dismantle the Afghan opium economy did not work, and in many cases made things worse. The Post reported that "of all the failures in Afghanistan, the war on drugs has been perhaps the most feckless."

Sentencing Policy

Kentucky Governor to Restore Voting Rights to 100,000 Ex-Felons. Gov. Andy Beshear (D) vowed during his inaugural address Tuesday to restore voting rights to Kentuckians with felony convictions. That could mean as many as 100,000 new voters for the Bluegrass State. Kentucky is one of only two states that have lifetime bans on voting for ex-felons (the other is Iowa). Beshear is finishing work started by his father, Steve, who while governor back in 2015 issued an executive order to restore voting rights to 100,000 convicted felons. But that order was suspended by Republican Gov. Matt Bevin days after taking office in 2016.

Chronicle AM: No Legal Weed in Maryland Next Year, Santa Cruz Psychedelic Decrim Move, More... (11/15/19)

Maryland legislators say they have yet to reach agreement on key aspects of marijuana legalization, leaving prospects for next year in doubt; Santa Cruz, California, moves toward decriminaliizing natural psychedelics, a Georgia medical marijuana commission finally gets members, and more.

Santa Cruz could be the next locale to free the 'shrooms. (Greenoid/Flickr)
Marijuana Policy

New Congressional Resolution Calls for Marijuana Legalization and Drug Expungements. Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) on Thursday filed a congressional resolution calling for marijuana legalization and expunging all drug convictions. Her "People's Justice Guarantee" resolution is more broadly designed to "transform the U.S. criminal legal system to one that meets America’s foundational yet unfilled promise of justice for all"through ending for-profit prisons, decriminalizing some non-violent offenses, capping criminal sentences, and reinvesting in communities adversely impacted by the war on drugs.

Maryland Legislative Panel to Defer Action on Legalizing Marijuana.Leaders of the General Assembly’s Marijuana Legalization Workgroup said Wednesday that they need more time to sort through an issue that is complex and still relatively new. That means the legislature is unlikely to seriously consider marijuana legalization next year. Among the issues unresolved are the amount of fines for smoking in public, whether to allow personal cultivation, whether people could give marijuana to others, and whether companies that have medical marijuana licenses should get favorable treatment.

Medical Marijuana

Georgia Names Members of State Medical Marijuana Commission. Gov. Brian Kemp (R), Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and House Speaker David Ralston announced seven appointments Tuesday. They include several doctors, a professor, a police chief and a small business owner. The commission was authorized by a bill passed in April that allows for the in-state production and sale of CBD oil. Now, after a six-month delay, the commission can move forward.

Psychedelics

Santa Cruz, California, Advances Effort to Decriminalize Natural Psychedelics. A city council panel will take up the proposed decriminalization of psychoactive plants and fungi next month after passing through a public hearing Tuesday night. The Public Safety Committee is expected to recommend that the council approve a plan to make natural psychedelics the lowest law enforcement priority.

Chronicle AM: Push on Psychedelics Expands, Mexico Misses Marijuana Legalization Deadline, More... (10/31/19)

We're starting to see pot bills getting filed for next year, a push to ease laws on natural psychedelics is expanding into more cities, Mexico's marijuana legalization push hits a bump, and more.

magic mushrooms (Greenoid/Flickr)
Marijuana Policy

Texas Marijuana Legalization Bill Prefiled. State Rep. Rolando Gutierrez has prefiled the "REAL Cannabis Legalization Act" ahead of the legislature's 2021 session. The bill aims to establish a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce as well as personal growing.

Wisconsin Decriminalization Bill Filed. A group of Democratic lawmakers has filed a bill that would decriminalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. Lawmakers said the move would attack racial disparities in marijuana law enforcement, as well as eliminating the smell of marijuana as probable cause for law enforcement to undertake searches and allowing for expungement of past pot busts.

Medical Marijuana

Kansas Lawmakers Recommend Studying How to Legalize Medical Marijuana. An interim legislative committee recommended Wednesday that the legislature advance medical marijuana legislation. The committee recommended that the legislature look to Ohio as a guide.

Psychedelics

Four More Major Cities Take Steps to Decriminalize Psychedelics. Activists in Berkeley, Chicago, Dallas, and Portland are all pushing psychedelic decriminalization measures , either through ballot initiatives or city council actions. They hope to capitalize on the momentum created by the successful campaigns to deprioritize enforcement of laws against natural psychedelics in Denver and Oakland earlier this year.

Sentencing Policy

Florida Bill to End Mandatory Minimums for Nonviolent Drug Offenses Filed. State Rep. Alex Andrade (D-Pensacola) has introduced a bill to remove mandatory minimums for drug offenses and allow a judge to decide the appropriate sentence for the individual defendant. State Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Orange Park) has filed a companion bill in the Senate. The bill would remove mandatory minimums if there was no violence involved and if the defendant had no prior felony convictions. It also increases the amount of drugs a person must be found with for that person to be charged with drug trafficking rather than just possession and allows people currently serving mandatory minimums to ask a court to reconsider their original sentences.

International

Mexico Misses Deadline for Marijuana Legalization. Mexico will not legalize marijuana by today's Supreme Court-imposed deadline, legislative leaders said earlier this week. Sen. Ricardo Monreal, head of the ruling MORENA Party's congressional delegation cited "unprecedented" lobbying pressure by companies seeking to get rich off legalization. "It was the intention to approve it on Tuesday," he continued, "but that's not going to happen." Instead, he said the bill will be discussed in "the first weeks of November."

Chronicle AM: Support for MJ Legalization Steady at 2/3, Chicago Psychedelic Resolution, More... (10/23/19)

Support for marijuana legalization holds steady at 66% in the latest Gallup poll, the Chicago city council approves a resolution on natural psychedelics, British MPs call for drug decriminalization, and more.

Support for marijuana legalization remains high, but has leveled off in this new Gallup poll.
Marijuana Policy

Gallup Poll Has Support for Legalization Steady at Two-Thirds. A new Gallup poll has support for marijuana legalization nationwide at 66%, unchanged from last year. This marks the first time in several years that support has not increased. Support for legalization has more than doubled since 2000, and had increased each year since 2013 until plateauing last year at 66%.

Medical Marijuana

Kansas Lawmakers Discuss Legalizing Medical Marijuana. Legislators met in Topeka Wednesday to discuss how to advance medical marijuana in the state. The hearing is in front of the Special Committee on Federal and State Affairs and was scheduled to go all day long. Past efforts in the legislature have gone nowhere.

Connecticut Lawmakers Approve New Qualifying Conditions. The General Assembly's Regulations Review Committee voted Tuesday to add five qualifying conditions for medical marijuana use by adults, including Tourette syndrome and intractable neuropathic pain. The legislators also approved medical marijuana as a treatment for patients under age 18 with those same two conditions. The regulations now go to the Secretary of State's office, which will post them online, making them final.

Rhode Island Governor Files Lawsuit to Block Lawmakers from Regulating Medical Cannabis, Hemp. Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) has filed a lawsuit against the General Assembly arguing that lawmakers unconstitutionally awarded themselves new powers to regulate the industry earlier this year. In the state budget, the Assembly mandated that it approve all new marijuana regulations. That's what Raimondo is objecting to.

Psychedelics

Chicago City Council Approves Resolution on Psychedelics. The city council last Wednesday unanimously passed a resolution expressing support for research on the potential use of psychoactive plants and pledging support for adult use of the substances. The measure is only a resolution -- not an ordinance -- and is thus only advisory, but aldermen may propose a future ordinance to decriminalize such plants.

Drug Treatment

New York Activists Decry Delay in Addiction Treatment Bill. Demonstrators rallied outside Gov. Andrew Cuomo's (D) New York City office Tuesday to demand that he sign a bill that would expand low-income New Yorkers' access to drug treatment. The bill passed the legislature in June. Protestors held signs saying "Governor, while you wait, New Yorkers die." The bill would remove prior authorization requirements for people on Medicaid seeking medication-assisted treatment, which has shown to be effective at preventing overdose.

International

British MPs Say UK Should Consider Decriminalizing Drugs. Members of Parliament's Health and Social Care Committee said Tuesday that the government should investigate decriminalizing drug possession in a bid to reduce the rising number of overdose deaths. The committee found that UK drug policy was "clearly failing," that the level of such deaths was an "emergency," and that a "radical new approach" to drug policy was needed.

Chronicle AM: House MJ Banking Bill to Get Floor Vote, Purdue Pharma Files for Bankruptcy, More... (9/16/19)

A bill to open up financial services for the marijuana industry will get a House floor vote this month, the maker of OxyContin files for bankruptcy, the marijuana industry places the blame for vaping deaths on marijuana prohibition, and more.

Is marijuana prohibition to blame for vaping deaths? The industry is pointing a finger. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

House Will Vote This Month on Marijuana Banking Bill. The office of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) has confirmed that he intends to bring the SAFE Banking Act to the House floor for a vote this month. Hoyer announced the move at a whip meeting last Thursday. The bill passed out of the House Financial Committee in March on a 45-15 vote. It would provide protections for banks that work with marijuana companies since the substance is still illegal under federal law, despite several states having legalized medical or recreational marijuana.

Marijuana Industry Blames Vaping Deaths on Failed Prohibition Policies.The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) has blamed the recent wave of vaping deaths -- a total of six so far -- on "failed prohibition policies" and called on Congress to legalize and regulate marijuana. "These unfortunate illnesses and deaths are yet another terrible, and largely avoidable, consequence of failed prohibition policies," said NCIA Executive Director Aaron Smith. "Current federal laws interfere with research, prevent federal regulatory agencies from establishing safety guidelines, discourage states from regulating cannabis, and make it more difficult for state-legal cannabis businesses to displace the illicit market. It is now the responsibility of Congress to end prohibition and regulate cannabis without delay," Smith added. "By removing cannabis from the schedule of controlled substances and instituting a clear regulatory framework through existing agencies, the federal government can provide helpful guidance to states that have or wish to establish regulated cannabis control systems while helping put irresponsible illicit market producers out of business for good."

Medical Marijuana

Utah Lawmakers Meet to Revise Medical Marijuana Law. Legislators returned to the state capitol Monday to once more amend the state's medical marijuana law. One issue is how and where patients will obtain medical marijuana products. The state had contemplated a central government-run pharmacy that would distribute the drug to a system of private pharmacies, but local leaders have balked at having government employees distributing a federally illegal drug.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Purdue Pharma Files for Bankruptcy. Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, filed for bankruptcy on Sunday, the first step of a tentative agreement the company and its owners, the Sackler family, reached last week to settle thousands of lawsuits blaming it for its involvement in the opioid epidemic. The deal is estimated at between $10 and $12 billion, with $3 billion coming from the Sacklers' personal fortunes.

Psychedelics

Ann Arbor Group Wants to Decriminalize Natural Psychedelics. A local group calling itself Decriminalize Nature Ann Arbor is planning to ask the city council to decriminalize natural psychedelics, such as peyote and magic mushrooms. They are calling on the council to approve a resolution to prohibit the use of city funds to investigate, arrest, or prosecute anyone for use or possession of such plants.

International

British Labor Party Wants Royal Commission on Drug Policy, Would Follow Its Recommendation to Decriminalize Drugs. A Labor government would consider decriminalizing all drugs if that was recommended by a royal commission, shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said. "There is nothing more important than preserving the life of our citizens," she said. "Our current approach to drugs is simply not doing that." Safe injection sites would also be considered, she added.

Thailand Bill Would Allow for Six Marijuana Plants for Personal Use. A member party in the country's ruling coalition government has proposed a bill that would let Thais grow up to six marijuana plants per household for medicinal use. "The principle is for medical use, you can have it at home for ailments, but not smoke it on the street," said Bhumjaithai Party lawmaker Supachai Jaisamut. The bill would also allow the sale of plants to institutions licensed by a Plant-based Drug Institute that would have the authority to purchase, extract, and export CBD.

Psychedelic Science Just Got a Big Boost [FEATURE]

The accelerating field of psychedelic research just got turbocharged. Thanks to a group of private donors, one of the nation's premier universities is moving forward with plans for what's believed to be the first such research center in the country and the largest of its kind in the world.

psilocybin-containing magic mushrooms (Greenoid/Flickr)
Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore will use $17 million in initial funding to create the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research, the university announced last week. The center will focus on the impact of psychedelics on behavior, brain biology and function, learning and memory, and mood.

The move comes as renewed scientific interest in the therapeutic uses of psychedelics has mushroomed in recent years, led to a large degree by Johns Hopkins researchers, who have been at the forefront of psychedelic research in the 21st century.

In 2000, Johns Hopkins researchers made a breakthrough, becoming the first in the country to win regulatory approval to restart research on psychedelics in healthy people who had never used such drugs. That resulted in a 2006 publication on the safety and long-lasting positive effects of a single dose of psilocybin, which jumpstarted a renaissance of psychedelic research worldwide.

Researchers linked to the university have published studies on psychedelics in more than 60 peer-reviewed journals, finding therapeutic benefits for people suffering from conditions ranging from nicotine addiction to depression and anxiety associated with terminal diseases.

Those studies helped pave the way for contemporary studies on the treatment of depression. Other Johns Hopkins research has resulted in safety guidelines for psychedelic research that have helped researchers at other universities around the world win approval for studies, while yet more research has dealt with the thorny problem of measuring how psychedelics affect mystical, emotional, and meditative experiences.

And now, get ready for much, much more. The new center will provide support a half-dozen neuroscientists, experimental psychologists, and clinicians, as well as five post-doctoral scientists -- all with expertise in psychedelic studies. Most of the research is going to center on psilocybin, the psychoactive compound in magic mushrooms.

"The center's establishment reflects a new era of research in therapeutics and the mind through studying this unique and remarkable class of pharmacological compounds," said Roland Griffiths, the center's director and professor of behavioral biology in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and the Department of Neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "In addition to studies on new therapeutics, we plan to investigate creativity and well-being in healthy volunteers that we hope will open up new ways to support human thriving."

"I am thrilled about this magnificent opportunity that has been provided by enlightened private funders," said James Potash, a professor and director of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. "This center will allow our enormously talented faculty to focus extensively on psychedelic research, where their passions lie and where promising new horizons beckon."

 

Because there is no federal funding for such research, private funders have been lined up to cover the first five years of the center's operating expenses. Those funders are the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation and four philanthropists: Tim Ferriss, author and technology investor; Matt Mullenweg, co-founder of WordPress; Blake Mycoskie, founder of the shoe and accessory brand TOMS; and investor Craig Nerenberg.

"We have to take braver and bolder steps if we want to help those suffering from chronic illness, addiction, and mental health challenges," said Alexandra Cohen. "By investing in the Johns Hopkins center, we are investing in the hope that researchers will keep proving the benefits of psychedelics -- and people will have new ways to heal."

The center's faculty will train graduate and medical students who want to pursue careers in psychedelic science, where there have historically been few avenues for career advancement.

"This represents the largest investment to date in psychedelic research, as well as in training the next generation of psychedelic researchers," said Ferriss. "I sincerely hope this ambitious Johns Hopkins center will inspire others to think big and establish more psychedelic research centers in the US and overseas, as there's never been a better time to support such important work."

And a new era dawns.

Seven Notorious Peyote and Mescaline Aficionados Who Opened New Doors in Human Perception [FEATURE]

Mescaline -- the psychedelic alkaloid found in only two species of Western hemisphere cacti, the peyote of north-central Mexico and the San Pedro found thousands of feet up the dry side of the Peruvian Andes -- hasn't had a recreational following in decades. As Mike Jay, the author of the just-released Mescaline: A Global History of the First Psychedelic, notes, the only place one can find it anymore is occasionally on sites on the dark web along with other exotic psychedelics. As a psychedelic alkaloid, it has been replaced by LSD, which is hundreds of times more potent and thus more user-, research- and smuggler-friendly.

psychedelic peyote cactus, the source for mescaline (Creative Commons)
But, as Jay relates in his highly readable recounting, even before LSD famously popped into existence in 1943, mescaline had been synthesized by German scientists in 1919. Mescaline has been circulating in the medical and scientific communities, as well as among more outrè elements, including mystic cultists and artistic fringe movements, for a century. Before being displaced, mescaline paved the way for the psychedelic wave that LSD rode into the history books.

With ritual use now believed to go back more than 3,000 years in Peru's Chavín de Huántar -- where the San Pedro still grows among the ruins -- and back 5,000 years in Mexico, the plant is indeed deeply rooted in indigenous cultures. It has withstood the arrival of the West and may even be profiting from a renewed Western interest in the South American psychedelic circuit thanks to the ayahuasca drug tourism boom.

Although the "devil's root" was banned by the Inquisition in Mexico -- dozens were prosecuted during the colonial era -- neither the cross nor the sword could vanquish it. Tribes of Mexico's remote northwest, such as the Huichol and the Tarahumara, kept peyote traditions alive. (The Huichol have even managed to turn their peyotism and the world-famous art it inspires into a community-sustaining industry.)

By the mid-1800s, Apaches whose lands straddled the US-Mexico border and who made raiding forays far south into Mexico brought the peyote ritual back with them and introduced it to the tribes of the plains and the American Southwest. Caught up in the churn of forced resettlement, tribal members mingled like never before on the Oklahoma reservations where they were interned, and the peyote ritual metamorphosed into a pan-tribal sacrament.

Early in the 20th century, Apaches, Comanches, Kiowas and others who swore by peyote moved to formalize its status, founding the Native American Church (the first use of the phrase "Native American" in its modern sense) in 1918 to act as the ritual's face to white America and the government in Washington. A century later, the Native American Church is thriving, now counting more than 250,000 members and most recently making strong inroads among the Navajo.

And peyote's Peruvian cousin, the San Pedro, is also thriving. It, too, has benefitted from the South American psychedelic tourism boom inspired by ayahuasca, and it has been cultivated in California for decades now, where neo-shamans are all-too-happy to guide you on an interior adventure. Unlike peyote, San Pedro is still legal in the US -- as long as you don't try to extract the mescaline.Whether for religious and spiritual purposes or to enhance the derangement of the senses, the mescaline alkaloid has a long and storied history. And it has attracted the attention of some remarkable individuals along the way. Here are seven men who rode Mescalito's white horse to some strange places indeed.

1. Chief Quanah Parker. Born of a captive white woman and a Comanche father, Quanah Parker overcame his half-breed status to become a famed Comanche warrior who rebelled against being forced onto the reservation at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in the 1880s. An adroit politician, Parker very ably maneuvered to protect the traditions of his people while presenting an acceptable face to Washington. As the millenarian Ghost Dance movement roiled Native America in the late 1880s (and led to the Wounded Knee massacre of 250 Lakota men, women, and children in 1890), Parker rejected its radicalism and instead championed the peyote ceremony, becoming the church's most famed "roadman," or ceremony leader. While Parker fended off Christianity throughout his life, he portrayed the peyote ceremony not as a challenge to Christianity but as a complement, a stance he deemed necessary to protect the culture and the church. "The white man goes into his church and talks about Jesus," Parker famously said, "but the Indian goes into his tipi and talks to Jesus."

2. James Mooney. Enthralled from his youth with the romance of the American Indian, James Mooney parlayed his obsession into a career as America's "Indian Man" as he used positions in the federal government to attempt to protect native cultures from the government's assimilationist (read: cultural genocide) policies toward the tribes. Assigned to Fort Sill, Mooney attended Ghost Dance ceremonies and shared Parker's worries that the movement could have disastrous repercussions. In 1891, Mooney became the first white man to participate in the peyote ritual and became an ardent proponent of it before white America. For Parker, Mooney was "the only white man who knows our religion." He also played a pivotal role in the formal founding of the Native American Church in 1918. But Mooney was also a vital link between peyote and mescaline; an advocate of the cactus' potential therapeutic uses, he made peyote buttons available to drug companies and academic researchers, leading directly to mescaline's synthesis in a German lab and its emergence into the world at large.

3. Aleister Crowley. James Mooney was the first white man at a peyote ceremony, but British occultist and drug-dabbler Aleister Crowley was the first Westerner to take peyote methodically over a period of years, and the first to use it as a non-native ritual sacrament. Introduced to psychoactive drugs in 1898, this high priest of the Order of the Golden Dawn and author of Diary of a Drug Fiend included mescaline along with alcohol, hashish, "extract of opium," and fruit juice in the "Cup of Libation" that he passed around at avant-garde parties in London just after the turn of the 20th century. Thanks in large part to Crowley, mescaline began to make its way more broadly into fringe cultural and artistic scenes.

4. William Burroughs. The always drug-obsessed Beat icon, long-time heroin addict and author of Junkie and Naked Lunch realized early on that peyote wasn't covered under the Harrison Narcotics Act and promptly sourced some from Mexico in 1952. As Jay relates, Burroughs says it "felt 'something like a benzedrine high. You can't sleep and your pupils are dilated. Everything looks like a peyote plant.'" When Burroughs finally did get to sleep, the peyote gave him nightmares: "Me and about five other chlorophyll addicts are waiting to score on the landing of a cheap Mexican hotel. We turn green, and no one can kick a chlorophyll habit. One shot and you're hung for life. We are turning into plants."

5. Allen Ginsberg. Burroughs' fellow Beat auteur also gobbled down the cactus buds after scoring some in Greenwich Village, the epicenter of the New York City Beat scene, in 1952. After pondering the beauty of a cherry tree and "grinning idiotically" as he listened to the music of Tito Puente, Ginsberg decided that "Peyote is one of the world's greatest drugs. I have to find, among other things, a new word for the universe. I'm tired of the old ones." Ginsberg continued to use peyote over the next few years as he oscillated between New York and San Francisco. "It was like telepathy, like electricity," he recalled. "It could turn your eyes into X-rays so that you could see the insides of things." One 1954 trip in a Nob Hill apartment had Ginsberg staring out at the city in the mist and fog, where the massive buildings of downtown were transformed into the "robot-like skullface of Moloch," the bloodthirsty Canaanite god "whose eyes are a thousand blind windows." From this vision derived the central image of part II of the Beat classic Howl, in which his generation was being sacrificed to the idols of money and technology.

6. Aldous Huxley. The renowned British author of Brave New World (where the fictional drug soma played a key role) almost singlehandedly made mescaline a household word with the publication in 1954 of The Doors of Perception, which he composed after ingesting 400 milligrams of the drug on "a bright May morning" in 1953. He described the experience as "without any question the most extraordinary and significant experience available to human beings this side of the Beatific Vision." It was "what Adam had seen on the morning of his creation -- the miracle, moment by moment, of naked existence." For Huxley, mescaline represented both a potential medical and scientific breakthrough -- the working hypothesis was that it might be an unlikely cure for schizophrenia -- and an opportunity for profound spiritual experience. Along with Albert Hoffman's 1943 LSD trip, Huxley's ingestion of mescaline has become a seminal moment in the psychedelic revolution.

7. Carlos Castaneda. The UCLA anthropology graduate student influenced a generation with his publication of The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge and 11 sequels. In the series, Castaneda claimed to have learned the shamanic path of the nagual (a shaman who claims to be able to change into animal form through rituals and experiences with psychoactive drugs) from Don Juan Matus thanks to peyote. Although Castaneda's work has since been denounced as a hoax, a fraud, and a pack of plagiarism, its influence in the 1970s and beyond was undeniable, and even some of the anthropologists whose work he lifted whole-cloth say that his message of spiritualism and respect for native cultures needed to be heard. Still, the title alone should have been a giveaway: The Yaquis, who lived in the extreme northwest of Mexico, had no history of participating in any peyote rituals.

These are just a handful of the fascinating people who have interacted with the fascinating alkaloid. For those of us interested in the culture and history of psychedelics, Mike Jay has plenty more people to meet and stories to tell. Pick up the book and get the whole story.

Chronicle AM: Senate Committee to Take Up Pot Banking Bill, Berkeley Psychedelic Decrim Push, More... (7/17/19)

In a sign of marijuana's momentum, a Senate committee will take up a pot banking bill next week, Ohio backs away from barring drug felons from food stamp eligibility, the Berkeley city council takes up decriminalizing natural psychedelics, and more.

Berkeley could soon join neighboring Oakland in decriminalizing natural psychedelics. (Greenoid/Flickr)
Marijuana Policy

Senate Schedules Hearing on Marijuana Business Banking Access. The Republican-controlled Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee has scheduled a hearing next Tuesday to examine state-legal marijuana businesses' lack of access to banking services. A House marijuana banking bill has passed out of committee and now has 206 cosponsors. At the same time, though, DEA marijuana arrests increased by about 20%.

DEA Chopping Down Fewer Marijuana Plants but Making More Pot Busts. As more states legalize marijuana, the number of plants seized by the DEA is declining. The DEA reported seizing 2.8 million indoor and outdoor plants last year, a decline of 17% from 2017. At the same time, though, the DEA arrested about 20% more people for marijuana offenses. These increased arrests, however, are not occurring in the legal pot states, but in places such as Kansas and Louisiana.

Psychedelics

Berkeley City Council Committee Considers Decriminalizing Psychedelics Today. Decriminalize Nature, the same folks who successfully got neighboring Oakland to approve a psychedelic decriminalization ordinance, now has a similar ordinance under consideration in Berkeley. The city council's Public Safety Committee will take it up today and can decide to either hold it for further hearings or advance it to the full council.

Collateral Consequences

Ohio Scraps Plan to Ban Food Stamps for Drug Offenders. The state Department of Job and Family Services has abandoned a draft rule that would have denied food stamps to people who had been convicted of felony drug offenses. The department backed down after the ACLU of Ohio posted the draft rule on Twitter, along with a letter of opposition. Kimberly Hall, the department’s director, called it an error. "The draft rule to change Ohio’s policy on SNAP eligibility for those with felony drug offenses was submitted for review in error," she said in an emailed statement. "This error is being corrected. There will be no policy change."

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