The term “plant medicine” is often associated with cannabis and marijuana, but it can encompass so many more substances that are naturally occuring. Plant medicine also includes natural herbal substances, extracting substances from vines (such the case with the psychedelic medicine ayahuasca), cacti (peyote), and even mushrooms (though we know that, technically, they are not plants).
We have seen significant changes in the legal status for these substances at the local level, despite many still being classified as narcotics by the DEA and FDA. In the past year-and-a-half we have seen decriminalization occurring in Oakland, Santa Cruz, Denver, Washington D.C.. Our own backyard, town, Somerville, MA, announced decriminalization this month.
While these are great, it is still just the beginning. We need to remember that decriminalization does not mean that they are legal, they are just at the lowest priority for law enforcement to pursue charges. Also, these laws only cover small quantities of plants, often for personal use. If you have large amounts or cross state lines you may be facing federal or state charges. But, this is a great step forward.
"We need to remember that decriminalization does not mean that they are legal, they are just at the lowest priority for law enforcement to pursue charges."
One of the largest efforts that I am most excited for is the passage of Oregon’s Ballot Initiative 109. This ballot initiative was the first of its kind, where Oregonians voted that despite federal regulations, they want to see psilocybin being allowed for legal, therapeutic purposes. The initiative goes one step further to articulate that licenced service providers within the state can prescribe and conduct treatment independently.
While the rules haven’t been completely clarified yet, these service providers are expected to be mental health providers and therapists who will receive specialized training as psilocybin service facilitators. Fortunately, they won’t need to be medical providers and will not need to follow the traditional medical model.
We need to remember that decriminalization does not mean that they are legal, they are just at the lowest priority for law enforcement to pursue charges.
Fundamentally, this means lawmakers recognize that psilocybin is an effective tool, that it’s quite safe in certain set and settings, and there is no need for medical oversight of any therapeutic process. The exact details are currently being laid out under the oversight of Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and should be finalized by 2022.
As it happens, this unexpected and exciting movement in Oregon led to the Canadian Health Ministry to announce that Canada, too, is looking to set up a similar program mirroring Oregon’s lead.
We are seeing more and more about entheogenic plants and substances being talked about on popular media such as 60 Minutes, Forbes Magazine, and Playboy. This means that the legalization movement is growing, and we as nurses need to stay informed. We need to have answers, or at least know where to go to find them. The fight isn’t over and we shouldn’t settle for just decriminalization. That being said, more people will be coming out of the shadows to talk and ask questions about entheogens. Stay informed.