If you recall, a lot changed for cannabis last year; but, there’s another plant-based medicine taking center stage this year. Psilocybin, commonly known as shrooms, was legalized in the state of Oregon. With the legislative change, however, a lot of questions come up for anyone that’s ever been curious. How can I buy and consume it? For cannabis consumers, a popular question is how it compares? While there’s more to it than you might believe, the new laws raise some valid concerns for proponents of Psilocybin.
To go over the details of Psilocybin therapy, its legalization, and its use with cannabis I spoke with a popular veteran in California, Colin Wells. For years, Colin has helped fellow veterans and cannabis-lovers find community and healing through natural remedies with Veterans Walk & Talk. The group uses peer-to-peer therapy whilst in nature to help one another. While cannabis is a staple among the group hikes, Colin has noticed that different forms of Psilocybin provide some of the best healing. Maybe, even more than cannabis.
The Reality of Legality
In Colin’s mind, the use of Cannabis and psychedelics have been married to each other throughout time. Similar to the endocannabinoid system in humans, the genome of mushrooms is much closer to that of mammals than that of plants. Our overall connection to plants is fascinating; and, to Colin, the applications are limitless!
He sees it on every hike and retreat. Cannabis may have been the introduction to the group but Colin saw an immensely positive impact on the self, the relationships, and the ego of all who partake in Psilocybin. He feels that type of effect is imperative for people going through trauma or any kind of emotional or physical pain.
“It’s improved my connection to myself and my family and people around me. It’s given me this cognition that I didn’t have before. I don’t want to oversimplify it… the fact of the matter is, micro-dosing Psilocybin and a few other mushrooms, I really don’t feel my brain is suffering anymore like it was when I was in the trenches of PTSD and traumatic brain injury symptoms.”
For those reasons, the legality is very troubling to Colin. As he tells me, Mushrooms don’t know they’re illegal and policy doesn’t change the way they work. Psilocybin may be decriminalized but, the growing, the gathering, and the giving is still very much a felony. Similar to cannabis being recreationally legal but illegal to consume publically or to even grow in some instances, the process can easily straw from what is intended.
“I don’t foresee a future where people can go to a clinic to take their mushrooms and then have to ‘trip’ under the supervision of a licensed physician. It just doesn’t work that way. If we are going to go back to these ancient remedies we need to shepherd them the correct way.”
According to the new law, Psilocybin will only be available through a licensed facilitator through a two-year development program. Before full implementation of legal mushrooms, you can only consume them in that environment. As we talked about his experiences with it, that seems like the least helpful environment to consume Psilocybin. If we’re really in the business of healing people, is this the best solution we could come up with?
Cannabis and Psilocybin
So, for the elephant in the room, how do Psilocybin and cannabis compare in a medicinal sense. After all the work that Colin has done with Veterans Walk & Talk, he sees cannabis as the great unifier. It’s an amazing modality; a helpful medicine. But, in all truth, since he started his psychedelic journey of micro-dosing he barely uses it.
“I consume it [cannabis] after to kinda process what I’ve experienced and I use it for extreme pain. Before, I would smoke cannabis morning, noon, and night; but now, it’s an afterthought.”
The group as a whole uses cannabis less. Some may see that change as the fabled “gateway” that the 1930s warned us about. In actuality, mushrooms are steering people away from other substances altogether. For the growing group, there are coaches and doctors even reaching out to learn from their community experiences and their use. The community of cannabis is helping to heal these veterans but, Colin believes that Psilocybin is getting to the root of the problem.
“…If they have different intentions for you, if they find something within you that needs to come bubbling to the surface, it doesn’t matter where you are, you’re going to experience that how you need to. It’s just about finding balance… I think a step away from anything and a step into one’s self is what healing is really all about. That’s the Veterans Walk & Talk way!”
We both agree that can scare the cannabis community. While we love weed, the capitalist nature of legal cannabis requires constant purchase and consumption. It’s the biggest hurdle we face with the federal legalization of cannabis. Despite legalizing weed for the health benefits, it can easily become about the financial aspects for the state. The same concern is apparent for plant-based medicine as a whole. However, if we’re gonna be proponents for wellness and mental health we need to empower people to not just grow their mushrooms and cannabis but also know when and when not to use it.
Ethically Sourced Plant-Based Living
This leads us to the dark side of legalization. Whether it be cannabis or shrooms, the new obsession that social media has given to wellness fuels the harmful effects of capitalism. While many that were targeted by the War on Drugs can prosper from the legal sale of cannabis, that isn’t what always happens. Many states legalize without making any amends for past transgressions. That leaves us with an industry heavily guarded by those with money and power leaving everyone else on the fringe with subpar medicine. We’re just as concerned about the effect on legal Psilocybin.
The stipulations of legal mushrooms as well as the social media aspect concerns Colin. It equally fascinates and scares him that people are already looking for ways to monetize the micro-dosing boom. It’s more than just a plant or just tripping to Colin and those who have joined Veterans Walk & Talk. It’s a way of giving back to the culture and the indigenous people that have been using mushrooms for centuries. This is his way of honoring them while still being science-based in aiding veterans in the best way he can.
“The fact is, I could go to school until the cows come home but nobody in the schools can learn what I’ve learned doing this hands-on the past 4 years. So, where does that come into play with these trials?”
Colin’s concern is rightfully placed on the new laws. Research and experience are very important in these situations but, we aren’t considering that with the way legal mushrooms are being pursued. The 2-year development is, essentially, clinical trials on anyone willing. If that’s the case, how are we certain the trials are putting people’s best interest at the forefront. How are we sure these trials would do more good than harm to unsuspecting participants. The short answer: we can’t.
Colin is very open but professional about the work he does. He wants people to retain their privacy but also be honest with him about their health. The care he gives to every individual in the group ensures that everyone is aware of what they are getting into. In the pursuit of legality and the eyes stigma, however, the state may not have the same care. As we see cannabis shift into a money-making tool for the state, Psilocybin could easily become another legal cash-cow with no real intent on helping people. Only we can ensure that it doesn’t happen that way.
“You can’t monetize wellness… micro-dosing invigorates your mind in a way that helps you be present in the moment. And when you’re present in the moment nothing else matters. You don’t have any dread, you don’t have worry, you don’t have anxiety about things you did or guilt about things you have to do. You just be present in the moment and take it as it comes. That does scare corporations but, I’m hoping it will scare them enough to scare them away.”
Legal Psilocybin in Oregon
In the end, this is all speculation. Although, with all the proof with cannabis, it’s difficult to not be suspicious of the legal jargon at play. Trials begin soon as members are being vetted; but, as we move forward, we have to keep the state accountable in this wellness-boom. We have to ensure that ethically-sourced health and culture don’t get swept away in policy. We have to ensure that people are doing the right thing by other people. While what Colin does is in the grey area of legality, he isn’t looking to get in trouble or get arrested. He is, however, looking to help others. For that reason, he will keep giving mushrooms to veterans that come to his hikes because it’s the right thing to do. He simply urges us to live authentically as we do.
Stay tuned for more coverage on Oregon’s new Psilocybin laws. They are the first state to make this type of change; but, as we saw from 2012’s recreational cannabis laws, the rest of the country may quickly follow suit. To learn more about Psilocybin and Veterans Walk & Talk follow them on Instagram.