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Psychedelics Advocates And Indigenous Groups Split On Decriminalizing Peyote Cactus

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As the psychedelics reform movement continues to spread across the U.S., a conflict has developed between some advocates and indigenous groups over whether to include the hallucinogenic cacti peyote in decriminalization proposals.

While part of the debate concerns the deeply entrenched, religious history that native communities have with the psychedelic, the main issue that both sides agree needs to be resolved is the rapid decline of the cacti due to overharvesting. Peyote plants take  7-12 years to mature, making the species especially vulnerable to supply issues amid growing demand.

In a recent letter to the reform community, the Indigenous Peyote Conservation Communication Committee (IPCCC) said that measures to decriminalize psychedelics locally or at the state level should not include peyote because it would be “very disruptive” to conservation efforts that native Americans are already undertaking.

“This conservation effort includes regulatory and legal measures designed to ensure biocultural conservation. It is important this effort not be interrupted or diluted,” the letter says. “Individual, state, or local decriminalization efforts that include peyote can be disruptive to the nation-wide strategy driven by Native American people to protect, conserve, and ensure the spiritual and ecological sustainability of peyote.”

The group’s position is “not due to opposition to decriminalization efforts in general,” IPCCC stressed, “but because there is an entire conservation strategy already underway.”

But on the other side of the debate, Decriminalize Nature (DN)—the organization that’s behind a slew of successful psychedelics reform initiatives—says it doesn’t see conservation and decriminalization as mutually exclusive. And it hopes to work with indigenous groups to forge an acceptable path forward.

Carlos Plazola, chair of the DN National Board, said in a response letter to IPCCC that peyote “is a key ally in our collective struggle to awaken the masses from the fear-based slumber of disconnection from ourselves, each other, and nature,” and so “we are very eager to hear the plan to save Peyote from extinction.”

“From December 2020 to February 2021, we encouraged the formation of a Blue-Ribbon Task Force to study ways to save peyote from extinction as part of the CA state-wide effort to decriminalize entheogens,” Plazola said. “But we understand the [Indigenous Peyote Conservation Initiative] and [National Council of Native American Churches] did not support this public process and discouraged its formation.”

“We are eager to understand why they believed it was not a good idea to bring together indigenous leaders from various tribes in California, the US, and Mexico; conservation biologists; leaders of [Indigenous Peyote Conservation Initiative] and [National Council of Native American Churches]; policy makers; botanists, biologists, climatologists, and others to openly study ways to ensure peyote does not go extinct, while still honoring indigenous rights and rituals with Peyote,” the letter continued.

As it stands, DN’s platform calls for the decriminalization of peyote cultivation for indigenous and non-indigenous people and making it so peyote in its “natural habitat” should be exclusively available to native groups.

David Bronner, CEO of the soap company Dr. Bronner’s who has funded various drug policy reform campaigns, told Marijuana Moment that indigenous leaders have “asked the psychedelic movement to follow their lead on conservation of peyote medicine on this continent, and not decriminalize their medicine at the state or city level.”

“Cultivation of slow growing peyote is one of many long term conservation strategies that the National Council is already engaged on at a nationwide level under the American Indian Religious Freedom Act: it does not require any regulatory changes at the city or state level,” he said. “The [Native American Church] does not want a signal sent to non-native seekers that it’s OK to use peyote for healing in ceremony, which would spike demand for their slow growing medicine.”

“There are other mescaline-containing cacti like San Pedro that non-natives can use,” he added. “It’s extremely disrespectful to assume that the NAC doesn’t know what they are doing in their efforts to conserve their medicine, and instead propose that a governmental committee be formed to lead this effort, especially given the long history of broken treaties and promises by US governmental bodies.”

“It’s incumbent on all of us to be respectful allies and show deference and respect to the indigenous led preservation effort already underway,” Bronner said.

The largely decentralized nature of the psychedelics reform movement might pose challenges to indigenous groups that are hoping to steer them away from including peyote in decriminalization measures.

Numerous cities across the U.S. have adopted measures to deprioritize enforcement of laws against entheogenic plants and fungi—and Oregon voted to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for medical use.

Last week, the Aspen, Colorado City Council discussed the therapeutic potential of psychedelics like psilocybin and proposals to decriminalize such substances, but legislators declined to take action on any specific resolutions. But while that body might not be ready to advance reform, numerous other local governments have moved to stop criminalizing people over entheogens since Denver became the first city in the nation to decriminalize psilocybin via voter initiative.

The Northampton, Massachusetts City Council is the latest example, with members unanimously adopting a resolution last month to deprioritize enforcement of laws against the possession, use and distribution of a wide range of psychedelics such as psilocybin and ayahuasca.

Two other Massachusetts cities—Somerville and Cambridge—have also moved to effectively decriminalize psychedelics. Outside of that state, four other cities—Oakland, Santa Cruz, Ann Arbor and Washington, D.C.—have also decriminalized possession of plant-and fungi-based psychedelics.

In Oakland, the first city where a city council voted to broadly deprioritize criminalization of entheogenic substances, lawmakers approved a follow-up resolution in December that calls for the policy change to be adopted statewide and for local jurisdictions to be allowed to permit healing ceremonies where people could use psychedelics.

After Ann Arbor legislators passed a decriminalization resolution last year, a county prosecutor recently announced that his office will not be pursuing charges over possessing entheogenic plants and fungi—“regardless of the amount at issue.”

At the state level, the Texas House of Representatives approved to a bill last week that would require the state to conduct a study into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics like psilocybin and MDMA.

Meanwhile, two Senate committees in California have recently approved a bill to legalize possession of a wide range of psychedelics and create a working group to study broader reform.

Read IPCCC’s letter on excluding peyote from psychedelics decriminalization measures below: 

Indigenous letter on peyote… by Marijuana Moment

Nebraska Activists Relaunch Medical Marijuana Ballot Campaign After Legislative Filibuster Blocks Bill

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Kansas Medical Marijuana Hearings Cancelled After Senate GOP Leader Reroutes House-Passed Bill

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A House-passed bill to legalize medical marijuana in Kansas seems to be in jeopardy, with GOP Senate leadership moving the legislation out of a committee and into a different panel where it may sit in legislative limbo, resulting in the cancellation of hearings that were scheduled to be held this week.

Advocates are concerned about the decision by Senate President Ty Masterson (R), who withdrew the cannabis reform legislation from the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee days before hearings were to be held on Tuesday and Wednesday. It was then re-referred to the Senate Interstate Cooperation Committee, which Masterson chairs and where the bill’s fate is unclear.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that medical marijuana legalization is off the table for Kansas in 2022, but it does seem to signal that the reform might need to be enacted through another vehicle, either in the legislature or at the ballot, as top Democratic lawmakers in the state are pursuing.

“We certainly hope that this action is just making sure that this bill meets any concerns that Senate leadership may have concerning this historic legislation,” Kevin Caldwell, a legislative manager at Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), told Marijuana Moment. “This bill had widespread bipartisan support in the House last session. We hope Senate President Masterson quickly holds a committee hearing and advances this legislation.”

When the proposal was being advanced in the House last year during the first half of the two-year session, members amended an unrelated bill that previously cleared the Senate to make it the chamber’s vehicle for the policy change. Because of that, it was ruled “materially changed” last May and sent to the Senate for committee consideration.

Now there’s a question of whether lawmakers will be motivated to introduce another separate bill and try to move it through both chambers, requiring another House vote. The Senate president seemed to temper expectations in recent remarks, telling The Kansas City Star that “not a single member” of his caucus has expressed that the issue “was important to them.”

That’s not how Kansas Democrats feel, however. House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer (D) and Assistant Minority Leader Jason Probst (D) said this month that they will be introducing proposals to let voters decide on legalizing medical and adult-use marijuana in the state. At the time, Sawyer said he was “hopeful” that the legislature might separately advance the House-passed legalization measure.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,000 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

“The people of Kansas deserve to know if senators support the overwhelming majority of people who want to alleviate patients’ suffering with a medical cannabis program,” MPP’s Caldwell said. “Now is the time to show compassion to their fellow citizens and vote this bill out of committee.”

“Kansas is one of fourteen states left without a medical cannabis program,” he said. “We have faith that the Kansas Senate will pass this legislation this session and this is just another step in that process.”

Michael Pirner, Masterson’s communications director, told the Star that “medical marijuana legislation is not a priority of Senate leadership,” but did signal the issue may still be considered before the year is over.

“The subject matter has clearly matured and we expect it to be considered at some level this session,” he said. “There are many more pressing topics on the Senate agenda.”

The bill as drafted contains several significant restrictions, including a ban on smokeable cannabis. Members of the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee did get a briefing on the issue at a meeting last week ahead of the expected, now-cancelled formal hearings before the panel.

Meanwhile, the constitutional amendment that the Democratic leaders are proposing would provide for a more comprehensive program that lawmakers would need to implement.

Gov. Laura Kelly (D), for her part, wants to see medical cannabis legalization enacted, and she said at a briefing with reporters on Friday that she “absolutely” thinks the bill could pass if “everything else doesn’t take up all the oxygen.”

She previously pushed a separate proposal that would legalize medical cannabis and use the resulting revenue to support Medicaid expansion, with Rep. Brandon Woodard (D) filing the measure on the governor’s behalf.

Kelly has she said she wants voters to put pressure on their representatives to get the reform passed.

The governor also said in 2020 that while she wouldn’t personally advocate for adult-use legalization, she wouldn’t rule out signing the reform into law if a reform bill arrived on her desk.

Marijuana Banking Bill Sponsor Says He’s ‘Gonna Get That Darn Thing Passed’ Before Leaving Office

Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

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Marijuana Banking Bill Sponsor Says He’s ‘Gonna Get That Darn Thing Passed’ Before Leaving Office

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Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) is retiring from Congress at the end of this session, but he says that he’s going to work to pass his marijuana banking bill before his time on Capitol Hill comes to an end.

The congressman spoke to Colorado Public Radio last week about his decision not to run for reelection this November and his disappointment that, while the House has approved the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act five times now in some form, the Senate has failed to advance it under both Republican and Democratic leadership.

“That one still has me pretty irritated,” Perlmutter said, referring to the fact that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has effectively blocked his bipartisan legislation. When there was a GOP Senate majority, he was told the bill was “too big and too broad.” Then with a Democratic majority, he’s told that it’s “too narrow and too limited.”

Schumer and his colleagues who are working on a federal legalization bill have repeatedly said that they do not want to see the SAFE Banking Act pass before comprehensive reform is enacted that addresses equity issues. Supporters of the banking bill argue that the incremental policy change is necessary for promote public safety and, importantly, it stands a much stronger chance of getting to the president’s desk with bipartisan support.

Nonetheless, Perlmutter said he plans to spend his remaining months in office pushing to get the job done.

“I have not given up on that one,” he said. “I’m gonna get that darn thing passed this year while I still serve out my term.”

Listen to Perlmutter discuss the marijuana banking legislation, starting around 10:24 into the audio below: 

Asked whether he thinks President Joe Biden would be inclined to sign the measure if it did get to his desk, the congressman said “absolutely.”

“Treasury Secretary [Janet] Yellen is somebody who has been talking to me about this for years,” he said. “I feel very good that it would pass. We’re at 47 states that have some level of marijuana use, all the territories and District of Columbia, and they need to have legitimate banking services.”

“It’s just a no brainer in my opinion,” he said. “And yeah, I’m a little bit irritated, but we’re gonna keep working on it and get it passed this year.”

The last attempt that Perlmutter made to enact the reform was by adding its language to a must-pass defense bill, but it was ultimately sidelined following bicameral negotiations and did not make it into the final version. The congressman told Marijuana Moment last month that he sees other potential vehicles to advance the bill and has spoken with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) about it.

Even some Republicans are scratching their heads about how Democrats have so far failed to pass the modest banking reform with majorities in both chambers and control of the White House. For example, Rep. Rand Paul (R-KY) criticized his Democratic colleagues over the issue last month.

Top Federal Drug Official Says ‘Train Has Left The Station’ On Psychedelics As Reform Movement Spreads

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Top Federal Drug Official Says ‘Train Has Left The Station’ On Psychedelics As Reform Movement Spreads

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A top federal drug official says the “train has left the station” on psychedelics.

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Director Nora Volkow said people are going to keep using substances such as psilocybin—especially as the reform movement expands and there’s increased attention being drawn to the potential therapeutic benefits—and so researchers and regulators will need to keep up.

The comments came at a psychedelics workshop Volkow’s agency cohosted with the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) last week.

The NIDA official said that, to an extent, it’s been overwhelming to address new drug trends in the psychedelics space. But at the same time, she sees “an incredible opportunity to also modify the way that we are doing things.”

“What is it that the [National Institutes of Health] can do to help accelerate research in this field so that we can truly understand what are the potentials, and ultimately the application, of interventions that are bought based on psychedelic drugs?” Volkow said.

The director separately told Marijuana Moment on Friday in an emailed statement that part of the challenge for the agency and researchers is the fact that psychedelics are strictly prohibited as Schedule I drugs under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

“Researchers must obtain a Schedule I registration which, unlike obtaining registrations for Schedule II substances (which include fentanyl, methamphetamine, and cocaine), is administratively challenging and time consuming,” she said. “This process may deter some scientists from conducting research on Schedule I drugs.”

“In response to concerns from researchers, NIDA is involved in interagency discussions to facilitate research on Schedule I substances,” Volkow said, adding that the agency is “pleased” the Drug Enforcement Administration recently announced plans to significantly increase the quota of certain psychedelic drugs to be produced for use in research.

“It will also be important to streamline the process of obtaining Schedule I registrations to further the science on these substances, including examining their therapeutic potential,” she said.

At Thursday’s event, the official talked about how recent, federally funded surveys showed that fewer college-aged adults are drinking alcohol and are instead opting for psychedelics and marijuana. She discussed the findings in an earlier interview with Marijuana Moment as well.

“Let’s learn from history,” she said. “Let’s see what we have learned from the marijuana experience.”

While studies have found that marijuana use among young people has generally remained stable or decreased amid the legalization movement, there has been an increase in cannabis consumption among adults, she said. And “this is likely to happen [with psychedelics] as more and more attention is placed on these psychedelic drugs.”

“I think, to a certain extent, with all the attention that the psychedelic drugs have attracted, the train has left the station and that people are going to start to use it,” Volkow said. “People are going to start to use it whether [the Food and Drug Administration] approves or not.

There are numerous states and localities where psychedelics reform is being explored and pursued both legislatively and through ballot initiative processes.

On Wednesday—during the first part of the two-day federal event that saw nearly 4,000 registrants across 21 time zones—NIMH Director Joshua Gordon stressed that his agency has “been supporting research on psychedelics for some time.”

“We can think of NIMH’s interests in studying psychedelics both in terms of proving that they work and also in terms of demonstrating the mechanism by which they work,” he said. “NIMH has a range of different funding opportunity announcements and other expressions that are priorities aimed at a mechanistic focus and mechanistic approach to drug development.”

Meanwhile, Volkow also made connections between psychedelics and the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic. She said, for example, that survey data showing increased use of psychedelics “may be a way that people are using to try to escape” the situation.

But she also drew a metaphor, saying that just as how the pandemic “forced” federal health officials to accelerate the development and approval of COVID-19 vaccines because of the “urgency of the situation,” one could argue that “actually there is an urgency to bring treatments [such as emerging psychedelic medicines] for people that are suffering from severe mental illness which can be devastating.”

But as Volkow has pointed out, the Schedule I classification of these substances under federal law inhibits such research and development.

The official has also repeatedly highlighted and criticized the racial disparities in drug criminalization enforcement overall.

Delaware Lawmakers File New Marijuana Legalization Bill With Key Equity Revisions

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