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How Cannabis Became the Gateway Drug for Psychedelic Drug Normalization


“What a long, strange trip it’s been.” –The Grateful Dead, 1970

The rock and roll band, The Grateful Dead once said, “What a long, strange trip it’s been.” And nothing could explain the normalization of psychedelics more perfectly. At around the same time that the lyric above was written, Western governments were in the process of heavily criminalizing all psychedelic drugs.

What has followed is a half-century of horribly misguided drug Prohibition. Outside of a handful of smaller jurisdictions, it was not until 2020 that drug normalization pressures have resulted in the first serious moves toward the decriminalization and (eventual) legalization of psychedelic drugs.

It’s now being called the Psychedelics Revolution. But to understand it, you first have to learn about the Cannabis Revolution.

The Cannabis Revolution

Cannabis wasn’t heavily criminalized until after psychedelics Prohibition was well underway. This process was part of the (now infamous) U.S.-driven “War on Drugs.” 

Along with the criminalization of cannabis came an intense anti-cannabis propaganda campaign. It was initiated by the government and parroted by the mainstream media.

A long list of supposed “dangers” was associated with cannabis use. All of which have now been debunked by real science.

In fact, via the approximate 100 cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, cannabis is (by far) the most benign of all recreational drugs.

It is non-toxic. It is not physically addictive. It has much milder psychoactive properties than other criminalized recreational drugs. Cannabis is successfully used medicinally to treat hundreds of different medical conditions.

The endocannabinoid system of the human body is essential for maintaining and regulating our health. The cannabinoids in cannabis (along with its terpenes and flavonoids) support this essential system. For this reason, cannabis also has numerous health-and-wellness benefits. None of the “dangers” associated with cannabis use have been able to withstand serious scientific scrutiny. Cannabis was also labeled a “Gateway Drug,” meaning that it supposedly led to people using even more addictive substances. 

Out of all the government’s anti-cannabis propaganda, this (ironically) had an element of truth to it. People would try cannabis. They would quickly discover that all the supposed “dangers” associated with its use were unfounded. 

They would then assume (quite reasonably) that if everything they had been told about cannabis was a lie, then the “dangers” associated with hard drugs were also lying. Based on the lies they had been fed about cannabis, people experimented with harder drugs—a Gateway Drug.

Flash forward to the Cannabis Revolution.

Starting in the U.S. in the 1990s (and around 2000 in Canada), the war to end cannabis Prohibition has raged. Via ballot referendums in the U.S. and court challenges in Canada, people won the right to access the cannabis plant’s medicinal benefits.

For Canadians at the national level and for about one-third of the U.S. population, the recreational use of cannabis is now legal. A small number of dinosaur states in the U.S. continue to prohibit even the medicinal use of cannabis.

It has not been an easy war. The Corporate Media has largely continued its anti-cannabis propaganda campaign, undeterred by small details like truth and science. While the media (and many government officials) continue to fabricate “cannabis health risks,” they have added a new branch of propaganda. We have now been told that cannabis legalization presents all sorts of “dangers” to society.

More crime. Lower property values. Increased teenage drug use. These are among the supposed “dangers” associated with cannabis legalization. As jurisdictions have legalized cannabis for recreational use, we have seen less crime and lower rates of teenage drug use. Most Americans consider cannabis legalization to be an “amenity,” if anything, it tends to promote higher property values.

The People have seen how all the “dangers” they were warned about concerning cannabis use have proven to be fiction. The People have seen how all the “dangers” they were warned about concerning cannabis legalization are also fiction.

Enter psychedelic drugs.

The Psychedelics Revolution

Roughly a quarter-century after the beginning of the Cannabis Revolution came the Psychedelics Revolution. Where the Cannabis Revolution has been a war, the Psychedelics Revolution has been more like the 60s “love in.”

While cannabis science still has to compete with cannabis pseudo-science, scientific research on psychedelics is unopposed by such disinformation. The same multinational media corporations that continue to unapologetically spew anti-cannabis information can’t find enough nice things to say about psychedelic drugs – and their medicinal potential. 

Such news stories like these highlight that point: 

Psilocybin Sessions: Psychedelics could help people with addiction and anxiety (CBS News, August 2020)

 We can no longer ignore the potential of psychedelic drugs to treat depression (The Guardian, June 2020)

Psychedelic Drugs Like LSD and Magic Mushrooms Linked to Transformative Experiences, Feeling Connected With Others (Newsweek, January 2020)

Mental Health Crisis rages around us, greatly exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 1 billion people worldwide are afflicted with stress-related disorders like depression, anxiety, addiction, and PTSD.

Clinical research is consistently showing that psychedelic drugs can not merely improve the standard of care for these conditions – they can revolutionize these treatment markets.

Psychedelic Drugs: Powerful Medicine, Life-Changing Results

Where conventional medicine struggles to even adequately treat the symptoms of these conditions, psychedelics-assisted therapy is producing cures. From this we saw positive media coverage, exciting science research, and none of it was obscured by anti-drug propaganda. 

Not surprisingly, while companies in the legal cannabis industry have generally struggled to get traction, new pubcos in the psychedelics space have thrived.

In the first year of trading for these public companies, most psychedelic stocks could deliver multi-bagger returns for their investors.

The Year in Review For Psychedelic Drug Stocks: 2020

Supported by exciting science and friendly media, this fledgling industry has been increasingly successful in raising the large sums of capital necessary to drive formal pharmaceutical research. In just the last 3 ½ months of 2020the industry raised over $500 million via public placements and private financing rounds. Not bad for Year 1.

Cannabis: The Gateway Drug to Psychedelic Drug Normalization

Cannabis legalization advocates and legal cannabis companies have fought a war to get cannabis legalized and normalized across North America.

They have the scars to prove it. And that war is not over.

In contrast, the road to the normalization of psychedelic drugs is proceeding more like a coronation. The outcome (psychedelics legalization) seems almost preordained.

This can be explained as the cannabis industry has already fought the battles for the emerging psychedelics drug industry. The medical community is even more receptive to psychedelics-based medicine. The media is providing friendly, fact-based reporting. The People seem even more receptive to psychedelics.

We’ve all seen the Cannabis Revolution. We’ve seen the positive benefits that have flowed from it. As a result, the psychedelic drug industry is facing far less resistance. But is there more to it? Psychedelic drugs are much more amenable to a drug patent system than cannabis. Multinational drug companies will have the potential to generate far more profits from psychedelics than cannabis.

Then we have the U.S. military. The Department of Defense is dealing with an even worse Mental Health Crisis. Along with depression, anxiety, addiction (and suicide), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is at epidemic levels among military personnel.

Coupled with this, a recent article bluntly stated that 70% of Young Americans are “too fat or dumb” to qualify for military service.

The DoD can’t afford a high attrition rate among those who qualify for service due to mental health disorders. Yet, the DoD currently has an abysmal track record in providing PTSD treatment (two-thirds of veterans express dissatisfaction with their treatment). The Department of Defense is also now one of the most enthusiastic backers of psychedelic medicine, contributing $10s of millions for research.

Cannabis is a Gateway Drug. The Cannabis Revolution has done much of the ‘heavy-lifting’ in public opinion and reducing the taboos in the corporate world toward these previously demonized drugs. This has paved the way for the Psychedelic Drug Revolution that is now unfolding. Would the psychedelic drug industry have been able to get off the ground without this cannabis-assist? We’ll never know.