Psychedelics and Religious/Spiritual Freedom

Psychedelics are associated with mystical and religious experiences. The psychedelic experience is often compared to non-ordinary forms of consciousness such as trance, meditation, yoga, and dreaming. Many users feel these chemicals are essential components to their spiritual lives and of profound significance to it: locking people up for exploring their spirituality is unconscionable. Many of the users of psychedelics are not motivated by hedonism, but seek the insights and transformations that psychedelics can bring.

The United Kingdom is a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights which provides a right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

Article 9 guarantees: “the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance”

Can right to use psychedelic compounds be defended based on their role as sacraments within one’s spiritual practice, even if this practice occurs outside an established or organised religion?

Article 9 adds some limitations however:
“freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others”.

Since the risks asosciated with psychedelics are, according to research, relatively small. We maintain that the use of psychedelics does not sufficiently contradict any of the above provisos of the ECHR. Further, the abilty for psychedelics to improve mental and physical wellbeings must be taken into account.

Psychedelic compounds have been used in shamanic rituals for thousands of years. A country that respects spiritual and religious freedom would not forbid its citizens from exploring such rites. Ancient cave-painting depicting psilocybin mushrooms suggest they were considered to be of vital importance to people in early civilizations.

The ability to form new religious traditions involving psychedelics as sacraments is made impossible by current drug laws: many feel that such movements are the best way to integrate safe and responsible psychedelic use into mainstream society. Current freedom of religion laws seem merely to protect pre-existing religions. Previous attempts to establish organised religious movements that involve the use of psychedelics have been thwarted by Western governments. There is some evidence to suggest that psychedelics had a role in the genesis of some of the world’s present day major religions.

By changing the laws and decriminalising psychedelics we grant the population of Britain a greater degree of spiritual and religious freedom. Provisions must be made so that individuals who use psychedelics with a view to spiritual development are not incarcerated: the imprisonment of harmless mystics is a travesty of justice.

The advancing of Britain’s spiritual life should motivate policy makers since it strengthens the psychological wellbeing and the moral constitution of the nation.

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