Psychedelics will be legal throughout most of the US by 2037, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Psychiatry last week.
Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis created this study “to assess trends in psychedelics legislative reform and legalization in the US to provide guidance to health care professionals, policymakers, and the public.” Using data from states that have proposed bills or ballot measures to legalize or decriminalize psychedelics and cannabis, the research team created a statistical model to predict the future of American psychedelics reform.
State-level psychedelics reform proposals have increased exponentially since 2019 when Denver became the first US city to decriminalize shrooms. The total number of reform bills increased from 5 in 2019 to 6 in 2020, then exploded to 27 in 2021 and 36 this year. Lawmakers and activists have proposed a total of 74 psychedelics reform measures in 25 states, including 69 bills and 5 ballot measures. Ninety percent of these measures focused on psilocybin, but 36% also expanded their sights to include MDMA as well.
As of this summer, 32 of those bills had failed, and another 32 are still being debated. Two major ballot initiatives have succeeded, however. Oregon voters legalized psilocybin-assisted therapy in 2020, and Colorado completely legalized psilocybin mushrooms and decriminalized most other natural psychedelics this year. Other states passed more modest laws: New Jersey reclassified psilocybin possession as a minor offense, and Connecticut and Colorado legalized MDMA therapy, contingent on federal legalization.
The study authors also note that although the psychedelics reform movement kicked off in liberal states, “the margin between liberal and conservative states has decreased over time... suggesting that psychedelic drug reform is becoming a bipartisan issue.” Researchers compared the growing wave of psychedelics reform to the cannabis reform movement, which spread from liberal states like Colorado and Washington a decade ago to conservative states like Montana and Missouri in the past two years.
The researchers combined their data on proposed psychedelics initiatives with statistics on state cannabis legalization laws and the 2020 presidential election to create a statistical model of the psychedelics reform movement. Based on this analysis, the study authors predict that psychedelics will be legal in most US states between 2034 to 2037. However, researchers also note that the FDA is working to fast-track the legalization of MDMA- and psilocybin-assisted therapy, which could advance that timeline significantly.
“The results of our study showed that, after decades of legal restriction, US states have been swiftly moving toward increased access to psychedelics,” the researchers concluded. “Decriminalization is just 1 step in a complex process to transform these compounds into safe and effective therapies. This process will have important consequences for the medical and scientific community. Integrating psychedelic treatment into clinical practice will require peeling back many layers of legal prohibition and FDA approval, clarifying prescribing guidelines, and developing treatment models that work for drug makers, physicians, and patients.”