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Psychedelic Medicine

Painting by Jennifer Davis

Other drugs may soon follow marijuana’s path from illegal to medical to decriminalized to legal

Magic mushrooms, those mind-bending fungi that helped to inspire the hippie counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s, are going through an existential transformation. And so is MDMA, also known as ecstasy, the drug that fueled all-night rave parties back in the 1990s.  Earlier this year, the cities of Denver and Oakland made news when they voted to decriminalize magic mushrooms and other psychedelic plants—declaring that enforcement of state laws against them are to be the lowest police priorities in those jurisdictions. Legalization advocates in California, Oregon, and other states are circulating petitions in efforts to change state laws.  Meanwhile, pharmaceutical startup companies have their sights set on the therapeutic potential of MDMA and psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, even though it’s still a bit of a mystery as to how Big Pharma can make big profits out of psychedelic revelation.  Three startups have invested more than $80 million to conduct government-approved clinical trials in the United States and Europe. They’ve set out to prove that psycho …

Don Lattin

Don Lattin is a veteran journalist and the author of five books on religion and spirituality in America. His national bestseller, The Harvard Psychedelic Club: How Timothy Leary, Ram Dass, Huston Smith and Andrew Weil Killed the Fifties and Ushered in a New Age for America, won the 2010 California Book Award for nonfiction. His most recent work, Distilled Spirits: Getting High, Then Sober, With a Famous Writer, Forgotten Philosopher and a Hopeless Drunk, is a memoir and group biography of writer Aldous Huxley, philosopher Gerald Heard, and Bill Wilson, cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous.  Lattin’s stories have appeared in The New York Times, the Washington Post, and the San Francisco Chronicle, where he covered the religion beat for two decades. He lives on an island in the San Francisco Bay with his wife, Laura, and his dog, Bella. Visit him at

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