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The Difference Between Psychedelic Legalization and Decriminalization

We take a closer look at some of the differences between legalization and decriminalization in the psychedelic medicine industry.
The post The Difference…



The psychedelic medicine industry is moving forward on both the medical and legislative fronts. Clinical trials are nearing FDA approval and governments are passing bills increasing psychedelics medicine access. But was that a decriminalization bill? Did psilocybin just get legalized? What’s the difference?

We take a closer look at some of the differences between legalization and decriminalization in the psychedelic medicine industry.


Psychedelic Decriminalization

Drug decriminalization is a nuanced policy strategy in which governments relax or entirely eliminate criminal penalties for certain drug-related offenses. Typically, these offenses revolve around drug use and possession. When a drug is decriminalized, it doesn’t imply that it’s entirely legal. Instead, it means that while its use and possession may still be technically unlawful, penalties associated with these acts are substantially reduced, often replacing criminal charges with administrative sanctions such as fines or mandatory treatment or no penalty at all.

In the context of psychedelic medicine, decriminalization can play a significant role in shifting societal views and reducing the stigma surrounding these substances. It also stops the arrest and incarceration of individuals for having psychedelics for personal or therapeutic use — giving people access to mental health options while the compounds work their way through the long and complicated legal landscape.

An example is the city of San Francisco’s decriminalization bill passed in 2022.

Lawmakers unanimously approved the decriminalization of psychedelics like psilocybin and ayahuasca. The measure didn’t officially change any laws, instead requested that police deprioritize psychedelics as being among “the lowest priority” for law enforcement. It also requests that the city redirects its resources. From the decrim bill:

“…City resources not be used for any investigation, detention, arrest, or prosecution arising out of alleged violations of state and federal law regarding the use of Entheogenic Plants listed on the Federally Controlled Substances Schedule 1 list.”


From the BC government website


Psychedelic Legalization

On the other hand, drug legalization is a policy that makes the sale and use of a particular substance completely lawful within the confines of regulated parameters. Unlike decriminalization, which primarily addresses penalties for users, legalization often comes with a framework for the manufacturing, sale, and taxation of the substance in question.

Legalization can bring numerous societal benefits, including the potential for economic growth through taxation, regulation of product quality and safety, and the potential reduction of illicit drug market activities. It also helps mitigate potential public health risks by usually requiring a regulatory system to prevent misuse and ensure consumer safety.

Within the realm of psychedelic medicine, legalization could foster a regulated industry of treatments and therapies that harness the benefits of these substances, while simultaneously ensuring patient safety.

Some examples of psychedelic legalization:


In the fall of 2022, Colorado voted to legalize psilocybin therapy and allow the personal use of psychedelics. Proposition 122, also known as the Natural Medicine Health Act Initiative, had three key provisions, touching on both decriminalization and legalization:

  • Decriminalizing the possession and personal use of “natural” psychedelics such as psilocybin mushrooms, mescaline, ibogaine and DMT, for all adults 21 years and older.
  • Establishing “psilocybin healing centers” where adults can receive psilocybin-assisted therapy to treat mental health conditions such as PTSD and depression.
  • Allowing Coloradans who had been previously convicted and served their time for a crime now made legal, to petition the courts to seal their record.



A trailblazer in psychedelic access, Oregon’s Measure 109 passed in 2020, becoming the first state to approve magic mushrooms for psychotherapeutic use. The measure allowed for the Oregon state health authority to establish programs for legally administering psilocybin products to people 21 and older.

The Oregon Psilocybin Services (OPS) is now awarding licenses to psilocybin facilitators, manufacturers, service centers, and laboratories, while ensuring that those licensees and their workers comply with Oregon law. OPS began accepting applications for the four license types on January 2, 2023, and expects to issue additional licenses to laboratories, service centers, and facilitators in the coming months.

Oregon’s first legal psilocybin therapy center opened in May 2023.

As the psychedelic medicine industry evolves, understanding the nuances between psychedelic decriminalization and legalization becomes increasingly helpful. These concepts not only shape the legal landscape and public perception of these substances but also impact research possibilities, clinical applications, and patient access. By understanding these distinctions, we can foster a more informed dialogue about the future of psychedelic medicine and its potential to reshape modern healthcare.

The post The Difference Between Psychedelic Legalization and Decriminalization appeared first on Microdose.

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