A Case Of The Decriminalization of Psilocybin Mushrooms – Critical Thinking Paper

On November 6, 2018, Californian citizens may have the option to vote to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms, commonly referred to as magic mushrooms or “shrooms.” Colorado and Oregon have drafted similar initiatives to decriminalize the use, possession, cultivation, sale, and transportation of psilocybin for persons 21 years of age or older. When consumed by humans, these mushrooms produce hallucinogenic effects like those of LSD or mescaline. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), “as of 2018, psilocybin is considered a Schedule I drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act and the state Controlled Substances Act,” which means it has no acceptable use in the medical field as well as a high potential for abuse (Madden et al.). In recent years, however, scientific studies have found that ingesting psilocybin can be especially beneficial for those struggling with anxiety or depression. There are no reported cases of death by this hallucinogen; however, people have died from eating misidentified mushrooms. I believe that an adult over the age of 21 is capable of making informed decisions about what they put in their body. Possession of a naturally occurring fungus should not be a felony, especially when research shows that psilocybin is not addictive and can help in treating stubborn conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder and major depressive disorder.

Before addressing current state issues regarding psilocybin, I would like to go over it’s documented use in the past. Many historians believe that magic mushrooms were first used 4,000-7,000 years BCE due to a style of cave art found in the mountain ranges of Tassili, Algeria. This style often depicted figures with large mushroom-shaped heads that sometimes lacked appendages or seemed to float in space. Aztec and Mayan ruins also portrayed similar art styles and even worshipped mushroom deities. When Spanish conquistadors arrived on the Mexican peninsula in the 15th century, they wrote about hallucinogenic mushrooms used in religious ceremonies. They considered this cultural practice to be primitive and impious, so they forbade its use. Opponents of this theory claim that people choose what they wish to see in simplistic ancient art.

Psilocybin had a resurgence in popularity within the 1960’s counterculture movement, and in 1970, psilocybin mushrooms were classified as a schedule I drug. This prevented further research on the substance and effectively demonized its use. Today, most countries have laws that regulate the possession of psilocybin by the UN’s Convention on Psychotropic Substances. A group called Colorado for Psilocybin has been campaigning to vote to decriminalize shrooms for their 2020 election ballot. In a 2014 study by the University of Zurich, researchers concluded: “even a moderate dose of psilocybin weakens the processing of negative stimuli by modifying amygdala activity in the limbic system as well as in other associated brain regions.” Although research supports the therapeutic use of Psilocybe mushrooms in a controlled environment, it is important to remember it’s not a miracle drug. Users can also experience paranoia, anxiety, and intense fear.

I was hospitalized and diagnosed with major depressive disorder when I was a freshman in high school. Since then, I have tried treating myself with prescribed antidepressants such as fluoxetine, citalopram, escitalopram, and bupropion, a treatment option that has had little positive effects on me. On the flipside, psilocybin could be used in the place of these synthetic drugs and has, over the years, proved an important asset in combating anxiety and cases of depression in cancer patient. It does this by inhibiting the process that leads to the processing of negative emotions in the amygdala ensuring that the subject’s emotional equilibrium is always maintained (Schiffman). Moreover, most mental health patients often describe the adverse effects of the synthetic medication that they are usually put on. These drugs often end up doing more harm than good, especially with addiction being a reality for them. Attempts to wean themselves off the drug are an uphill task, with adverse withdrawal symptoms commonplace. It is vital to acknowledge that this state of affairs only worsens for these patients, trapping them in a never-ending cycle of addiction to antidepressants. Psilocybin presents a viable option that would ultimately benefit thousands of patients suffering in silence and desperate need of feasible option (Studerus et al.). As mentioned earlier, these mushrooms are, essentially, naturally occurring fungi with no residual effects on users. Using it for medical purposes will, therefore, go a long way in ensuring that patients receive medication that effectively deals with their specific condition in addition to avoiding any cases of addiction.

Criminalization of the psilocybin mushroom creates more of a drug problem as opposed to solving it. Whenever the Federal Government embarks on a crusade aimed at clamping down on “illegal” drugs, more harm than good is done. The so-called War on Drugs meant that any individual found in possession of a Schedule I one drug qualifies for a mandatory minimum sentence in state-run prisons. The result of this policy is that thousands of individuals, from mostly poor marginalized communities, are imprisoned for lengthy prison sentences, dealing a blow to those from such a group. Additionally, the illegality of these drugs makes recidivism rates a bleak reality, worsening the state of families in these communities. Young children now have to grapple with growing up in a single parent household, and in most cases, without a father figure to guide them through life. Banning the use, possession, cultivation, sale, and transportation of psilocybin mushrooms benefits drug dealer since they now have a unique opportunity to deal in a scarce commodity that is in high demand. Such was the case during the Prohibition Era, which also leads to the mushrooming of violent criminal gangs fighting over turf to sell their illegal commodities.

In finality, decriminalizing the use, possession, cultivation, sale, and transportation of psilocybin for persons 21 years of age or older would serve as a progressive move with various benefits accruing from this milestone. These “drugs” are, in essence, naturally occurring fungi found in nature which makes it rather appalling that there a section of individuals would decide to criminalize. Scientists have proven, beyond any reasonable doubt, that ingesting psilocybin has no known negative effects on individuals. On the contrary, it has the ability to aid those struggling with mental health ailments while ensuring that they avoid using prescription drugs. Decriminalizing this ancient mushroom would also mean that it would be easy access and regulate, keeping everyone on both divides contented. Lobby groups such as the California Psilocybin Mushroom Decriminalization Initiative have taken it upon themselves to secure the future of this rare fungus by collecting signatures. It is my sincere hope that the state and Federal Governments will realize the benefits of this mushroom and fight for its protection.

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