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By MICHAEL CASEY Associated Press
Published: 02 February 2023

HILDALE, Utah (AP) — EDITORS/NEWS DIRECTORS:

A small but growing movement is pushing to decriminalize the use of psychedelics like “magic mushrooms” and ayahuasca.

Colorado in November passed a ballot initiative to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms for people 21 and older. It joins Oregon in establishing a regulated system for substances like psilocybin and psilocin, the hallucinogens found in some mushrooms. Lawmakers in several other states, including Massachusetts and New Hampshire, have introduced bills to decriminalize a range of psychedelics, while an Illinois lawmaker is proposing a sanctioned psychedelic therapy program.

More than a dozen cities mostly in California, Massachusetts and Washington have also passed resolutions that call for law enforcement authorities to deemphasize the prosecution of a range of drugs including ayahuasca. Read AP's latest coverage..

Here are some tips for localizing the story:

GETTING STARTED

— A good place to start covering the movement is with groups monitoring changes in drug laws. Psychedelic Alpha tracks legislative efforts to legalize psychedelics. Another good source, Psychedelic Week, provides regular updates on psychedelic law and policy. Two other resources are the Multidisciplinary Association For Psychedelic and Heffter Research Institute.

— Just as groups like the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws advocated for legalization of marijuana, there are many organizations advocating for decriminalization of psychedelics. Among them are Psychedelic Bar Association and Decriminalize Nature. At the state level, you could contact SPORE in Colorado, Bay Staters For Natural Medicine in Massachusetts and Psychedelic Medicine of Washington in the state of Washington.

— There are also a host of experts who can discuss the history of the movement, the research related to these drugs and the various decriminalization laws and resolutions. A good source on the decriminalization movement is Mason Marks, the senior fellow of a psychedelics project at the Petrie-Flom Center at Harvard Law School. Attorneys well versed in the movement include Sean McAllister, Jonathan Dennis and Greg Lake. Matthew Johnson at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Brad Stoddard at McDaniel College can provide historical perspective, while Jennifer Mitchell, from the University California, San Francisco, can discuss the potential conditions that could be treated with psychedelics. Other experts include Michael Bogenschutz at the NYU Langone Center for Psychedelic Medicine.

QUESTIONS TO ASK

— What drugs would a proposed law cover, and who would benefit with legalization? The Colorado ballot measure legalizes psychedelic mushrooms, but not everyone in the psychedelic community will benefit. There are age restrictions and limits on where the drugs could be used. It would also be several years before other psychedelics like mescaline could be added to the mix.

— What is driving the push to legalize psychedelics? Many supporters claim they offer a range of benefits for people suffering from mental health problems. What does the science say about this? It is important to talk to the experts to determine if a drug has been well studied in clinical trials or whether findings are based on self-reported surveys that are less reliable.

— In most places, psychedelics remain illegal. What does that largely underground scene look like, and how does the law enforcement community view a push to decriminalize psychedelics? What data do they have on arrests, drug seizures and anyone becoming sick from partaking in these drugs? Who is using these drugs, and is their use on the rise in your region?

— A growing number of supporters are forming churches where they can celebrate and partake in psychedelics. Many are hoping this gives them protection from federal prosecution based on a 2006 Supreme Court ruling. But are these really religious institutions? How do they compare to traditional Western churches? Is it fair to assess these churches based on Western definition when some of these psychedelics can be traced back to Indigenous groups that used them for centuries?

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