Decriminalization and the War on Drugs
I have always been an advocate for cognitive liberty and ending the drug war. Throughout my time in the psychedelic community, I have advocated for the legalization of psychedelics as well as all drugs. I didn’t think much about decriminalization besides knowing what amount of cannabis was decriminalized in my state. After seeing what Oakland did with the Decriminalize Nature movement I realized that decriminalization can be a lot more powerful than I initially thought, and could be a better first move than full legalization. The ideal vision in my mind is a world culture where every adult has the right and the ability to alter their consciousness in whatever way they see fit. By first decriminalizing entheogenic plants, we reclaim the right to grow, gather, and gift these tools in order to begin reintegrating them into society. This first step will enable us to rebuild the infrastructure to heal those who need it. Additionally, we can use these tools to explore the mystery of consciousness as a community, once again sharing in the open what we bring back from these experiences. By focusing first on plant entheogens, we can ensure access by allowing cultivation and gathering by individuals wanting to use these substances, or by others who can provide if the individual is not able to do so themselves. We can also localize access and help ensure more sustainable plant exploration by creating and publishing field guides to local entheogens.
Our team here at Decriminalize Nature Minneapolis feels optimistic that we will make real, positive change by passing our decriminalization initiative. The focus on local communities that is such an integral part of the Decriminalize Nature movement is crucial, now more than ever. As communities around the world are staying put, we are realizing how important it is to have resilient systems in place in order to take care of our neighbors. To reintegrate these healing plants into the fabric of our local communities, and to be able to experiment with what works best for our area, is a powerful first step to building a world culture that has integrated the psychedelic experience and all other drug use into society.
There has been some criticism aimed at the Decriminalize Nature movement and the decision to only focus on entheogenic plants instead of all entheogens, or even all drugs. I personally think that starting with plants is a great first step but doesn’t go far enough. Our local politicians have responded well to our initiative that seeks to decriminalize plants and fungi due to their history of indigenous use, in addition to them having shown great promise through rigorous clinical trials. It is also an attractive notion to champion the ability for humans to reconnect with nature. Dennis McKenna has said that symbiosis should be declared a basic human right and I think that gets exactly to the point. The fact of the matter is that we do have the right to have a relationship with any plant that we want. Not only that though, we also have the right to have a relationship with any substance we want, natural or otherwise. Just because the law temporarily says otherwise doesn’t change the fact that we are sovereign over our own consciousness, we always have been and we always will be, and no politician can ever take that away from us. Humans have utilized plants for food, medicine, and intoxication throughout our history and will hopefully continue to do so until the end of time. These 50 odd years of certain plants and drugs being illegal will be a blip on the radar of human history, but these laws aren’t going to change themselves. We are doing our part, alongside other activists around the world, to correct the error of some adults believing that they can tell other adults what they can and cannot do in the comfort of their own homes or healing centers.
So let us start with decriminalizing entheogenic plants, but you better believe that once we pass our initiative it is not the end, but rather the beginning. Now is the perfect time to reevaluate and restructure our society, and the War on Drugs is something that many people have been reevaluating. The War on Drugs has always been a misnomer. As Lorenzo Hagerty says, they aren’t putting drugs behind bars, they are putting people behind bars. This has always been a war on people who use certain drugs, and that is a concept that I cannot get behind. We need to leave behind the idea that an adult can be put in a cage for what they choose to do with their own mind. There is no better time than now to not only advocate for ending the War on Drugs, but to also provide an alternative model. Buckminster Fuller may have said it best when he stated, “you never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
What we are proposing is a new model, one where we can use all of the tools available to us (plant based or otherwise) in order to become better humans, to heal and unite our communities, and to build a greater world. This type of change is always easier from the bottom up, and that is what we are doing, that is the strength of this movement. All it takes are small conversations between passionate citizens and their lawmakers. Try to change one mind today, and one more tomorrow. Through that process, we can actualize the world that we deserve.
Bryan EbertFounding Board Member of the Psychedelic Society of Minnesota