Scofflaws Lead the Way To Legalizing Psychedelic Drugs
A good predictor that restrictive laws are on their way out is when large numbers of people honor them in the breach. Prohibition famously foundered on Americans’ desire to keep the party going. Marijuana legalization gained acceptance as a large and growing segment of the U.S. population enjoyed its use despite government-imposed restrictions.
If this pattern holds, we should soon expect psychedelic drugs to overcome legal barriers. That won’t just be a victory for people’s freedom to make their own choices, but also for innovators who see therapeutic promise in LSD, magic mushrooms, and MDMA.
In poll results published last week by YouGov America, 28 percent of respondents reported having used at least one of seven specified psychedelic drugs. The drugs mentioned were LSD (acid), psilocybin (mushrooms), MDMA (ecstasy), mescaline (peyote), ketamine, DMT, and salvia. LSD and mushrooms were favored by 14 percent and 13 percent of respondents, respectively. Nine percent had used MDMA. Other drugs enjoyed lesser degrees of popularity.
By and large, Americans still oppose legalization of these drugs, the pollsters found. But “people who have tried these three drugs are more supportive of decriminalizing them.” Leading the pack were magic mushrooms: “Two-thirds of people who have tried psilocybin (68 percent) say it should be legal.”
At 28 percent usage across the population, psychedelics have penetrated mainstream American culture to a significant extent. It looks like those old D.A.R.E. lessons were every bit as effective as researchers expected: A 1992 Indiana University Study found that participation in the anti-drug program increased rates of “hallucinogenic” drug use among graduates. That certainly provided job security for police officers who taught the program in schools and apparently generated a new generation of lawbreakers. Importantly, we’ve been here before. Prohibition was famously a failure because enforcement was impossible when much of the population defied the law or at least tolerated scofflawry.
“This episode examines the problems of enforcement, as millions of law-abiding Americans become lawbreakers overnight,” PBS noted of the second installment in Ken Burns’ documentary Prohibition, about the country’s massive policy mistake in trying to ban alcoholic beverages.
Repeal soon became an attractive proposition and alcoholic beverages were (mostly) re-legalized.
Marijuana provides even easier fodder for comparison since we have more data on behavior and opinions over time. It’s apparent that support for legalization grew as its use became accepted among a sizeable minority of Americans.
“More than 50 years ago, just 4 percent said the
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