Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Making Mushrooms Legal

By Aída Chávez The Nation

After 50 years of prohibition, some states are starting to challenge the federal government’s policy on psychedelic drugs.

In November 2020, voters in Oregon passed a pair of historic drug policy ballot measures. The first was Measure 110, a proposal to decriminalize low-level drug possession, with 58 percent in favor; the second was Measure 109, a proposal to grant legal access to psilocybin (the psychoactive component in magic mushrooms) for mental health treatment, with 56 percent in favor. It was an unprecedented turn of events in drug policy. But as always in the United States, businessmen were waiting in the wings.

Compass Pathways, a biotech firm backed by the right-wing Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, had been preparing for a “psychedelic revolution” and the subsequent investor windfall, accumulating patents here and abroad for its synthesized formulation of psilocybin and its use in therapy. In a patent application the same year as the Oregon ballot, Compass Pathways filed claims for specific aspects of psychedelic therapy, including “the room is decorated using muted colors” and “the room comprises a bed or a couch.” The claims also included behaviors like holding hands, the therapist providing “reassuring physical contact,” and the use of breathing exercises. This attempt to commodify the basic elements of psychedelic therapy, or trip sitting, signals that psychedelics are the latest trend to catch Big Pharma’s eye.




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