While psychedelic drugs rose to prominence in the 1960s, the attendees at an Ashland conference say the nation and world would be a better place if the non-addictive drugs regained their footing in society.

The “peace and love” message of the '60s — inspired in part by psychedelic drugs — hasn’t changed over the last five decades, speakers told the approximately 300 attendees at the fourth annual Exploring Psychedelics conference, held May 25-26 at Southern Oregon University.

Pointing to a “spiritual crisis in the west,” conference organizer Martin Ball, an SOU adjunct faculty member, said mind-altering substances such as psilocybin mushrooms have been a positive part of culture since the beginning of history. But the federal government's War on Drugs over the last 50 years demonized the non-addictive “entheogens” (literally: generating god within) and pushed the movement to the periphery of society.

“A psychedelic renaissance is underway as researchers and society learn of its benefits in health, healing and creativity in art, music, philosophy and a greater understanding of how to solve society’s problems,” says Ball. “We’re not talking about back-alley druggies and Grateful Dead concerts here. These are important members of our society.”

Ball produces a podcast, the “Entheogenic Revolution,” with a motto, “Just Say Know,” a play on the Drug War’s “just say no” credo. Noting that psychedelics are not in the same category as meth or crack, he said they should stop being criminalized.

In the wake of the state’s legalization of marijuana, Tom and Sheri Eckert of Portland have organized the Oregon Psilocybin Society, which they said is promoting a ballot measure to legalize the mind-altering substance. The measure would set up a process for overseeing and training facilitators of “trips,” licensing, getting medical clearance for users — who must be over 21 — but would not legalize personal possession.

“The psychedelic movement is rising to prominence and if humanity is to survive, we need to heal the culture,” said Sheri Eckert. "It’s bottoming out and forcing us to look at ourselves. We have to evolve and claim our higher consciousness or else. Psilocybin helps us reclaim our truth.”

The plant offers relief for depression, end-of-life anxiety, addiction and PTSD, the Eckerts said.

When the history of this time is written in a thousand years, said Tom Eckert, a therapist, “I bet they won’t focus on our absurd politics but how we valued the inner dimension.”

In a talk on marijuana, Michael Scott said psychoactive drugs are “at the tipping point, with less and less suppression. More and more folks are talking about changing the world to a better place.”

— John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.