Destigmatizing Psychedelics Key to Decriminalization in Texas, Expert Says
“We’re all about education. We firmly believe social change precedes political change, despite what politicians and lobbyists will tell you,”
I’m a Texas girl born and raised, but in December I decided to switch things up and experience a real winter. I took a trip to Denver, Colorado with some family and found a vastly different community than that of Texas.
As Austin and other Texas communities move to decriminalize marijuana in 2020, I’ve found that knowledge about cannabis and psychedelics is severely lacking. This is why I decided to speak with someone on the front lines of decriminalization and education.
I organized an interview with the executive director of the Psychedelic Club, Joey Gallagher. Joey was a canvasser for the Decriminalize Denver campaign, and led the Psychedelic Club in Denver for 3 years before becoming the executive director on the national level.
“We’re all about education. We firmly believe social change precedes political change, despite what politicians and lobbyists will tell you,” Joey asserted as we spoke over the phone. It seems Colorado has had the right idea all along.
It’s no secret that Colorado legalized the recreational use of marijuana in 2012 with amendment 64. The news made national headlines as the state was the first to do so in America, but they didn’t stop there. More recently, the city of Denver made headlines in 2019 as the first city to decriminalize psilocybin, aka psychedelic mushrooms. Joey says that in order to get initiative 301 on the ballot, about 6,000 signatures had to be collected.
“Military veterans are some of the biggest advocates of psychedelics. Veterans have been the largest voices for psychedelics.”
The subject of psilocybin is very much taboo across Texas and the US, despite positive research results from the FDA. In October 2018, the FDA granted psychedelic psilocybin therapy "breakthrough therapy” status. Currently psilocybin is proving to be beneficial in treating various psychological conditions ranging from depression to PTSD.
Joey credits military veterans for the success of the psychedelic movement, stating, “Military veterans are some of the biggest advocates of psychedelics. Veterans have been the largest voices for psychedelics.” While most would assume that those into psychedelics are strictly the hippie type, it seems that isn’t really the case.
“There are some people who have never tried psychedelics, who want to learn more, there are some people who have done psychedelics a lot. There's young people, old people - the psychedelic club is pretty diverse. From different class backgrounds too, not just people wearing tie dye shirts and stuff. We have therapists, lawyers, doctors, personal trainers...it's like the definition of community, ” Joey excitedly explains.
"We’re trying to rebuild the community that the government and the drug war destroyed.”
Contrary to popular belief, the psychedelic club isn’t a dangerous cult and is actually a 501c3 organization. Joey elaborated upon the club’s status, stating, “Yeah, the government allows us to exist. We are a 501c3 charity. We’re more like a book club. A lot of people when they hear Psychedelic Club they think we’re taking drugs in a forest, dancing around a fire.” Jokingly, he continues, “We do that in our free time. We don't do that as a club. We host speakers, have psychedelic peer support. Its a community group. We’re trying to rebuild the community that the government and the drug war destroyed.”
Intrigued, I ask about other decriminalization plans in the future, to which Joey succinctly responded, “There's several plans, local, and statewide. Hopefully country wide. Hopefully we end the whole drug war by this decade. I mean it’s been a complete and total failure by any sort of measurements.”
Misconceptions about cannabis and psychedelics have been proven wrong by the state of Colorado. As more myths are debunked, I can’t help but ruminate over what’s to come. I firmly believe that education is power, and without the proper education on cannabis and psychedelics our community will continue to suffer from the adverse effects of the war on drugs.
Visit the Psychedelic Club's website here.