Colorado: Denver drops charges against “the rabbi of the psilos”

(JTA) — A Denver rabbi who promoted the use of psychedelic drugs as part of spiritual practice is no longer at risk of prosecution after a vote in Colorado last month and who legalized psilocybin, the chemical component found in magic mushrooms.

The Denver District Attorney’s Office announced last week that charges against Ben Gorelick, founder of the multi-faith Sacred Tribe — which incorporates psilocybin use and ideas rooted in Jewish tradition — were dropped. A spokesperson for the office told the denver post that this decision was made “following the decision of the voters” to adopt Proposition 122, which legalizes the cultivation and sharing of psilocybia, small mushrooms, for all adults over the age of 21 in Colorado.

Gorelick was charged in February with possession of a controlled substance with intent to produce or distribute it, a charge that carries a mandatory jail term, although voters in Denver had already and already chosen to decriminalize the use of psilocybin.

Receive our free daily edition by email so you don’t miss any of the best news Free registration!

“It’s been a long year for the community, it’s been a long year for us, and we’re looking forward to being able to resume the practice of our religion – which was at the center of this whole story,” Gorelick told the denver postthis week.

The charges forced Sacred Tribe to shelve its core practice — even though the group continued to hold Shabbat meals and activities for its roughly 270 members, who don’t have to be Jewish to join. Gorelick, who was ordained a rabbi in 2019 by the Jewish Spiritual Leaders Institute, an online program, had sought to publicize his case and find funding to fight the charges, a fight he had focused on defending the religious freedom.

He claims that there is a long tradition of psychedelic drug use within Judaism – something even other Jewish advocates of the use of hallucinogenic substances in spiritual practice dispute. Some of these defenders told the Guardian that they had never heard of the rabbi until his arrest – while Gorelick claimed he had contacted them to make sure they were indeed using psilocybin in their religious practice.

Psilocybes, also known as hallucinogenic mushrooms. (Credit: CC BY-SA Raeky/Wikimedia commons)

These Jewish defenders of psilocybes have become better organized in recent years. Rabbi Zac Kamenetz, who was ordained by an Orthodox rabbi in Israel, founded a group during the pandemic, Shefa, whose goal is to one day make mystical experiences driven by chemicals an integral part of spirituality. Jewish. Last year, the band held their first-ever psychedelic conference.

Long considered illegal in the United States, psychedelic drugs have been the subject of ever-increasing research, particularly for their therapeutic potential in the management of trauma. One of the groups promoting this research, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, was founded by a Jew who was inspired by a dream of surviving the Nazis to dedicate his life to promoting these substances as as a remedy for human illnesses, and as a means of preventing another Holocaust.

“I’m one of the few people who can say she’s had legal experience with psychedelic drugs in the country,” Kamenetz said last year. “Having the freedom to talk about it freely, without stigma, allows people to start a more open dialogue about it. People listen more if they are given the chance to meet someone who has used psychedelic drugs legally.”

You are one of our loyal readers!

That’s what we work for every day: to provide discerning readers like you with relevant media coverage of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world. Unlike many other outlets, our content is accessible for free – with no paywall popping up from the first paragraph. But our work is proving increasingly costly. This is why we invite readers, who can and for whom Times of Israel in French has become important, to support us by joining the Community of Times of Israel in French. For the amount of your choice, once a month or once a year, you too can contribute to this quality independent journalism and enjoy ad-free reading.

Join the Community

Join the Community

Already a member ? Log in to stop seeing this message

Colorado: Denver drops charges against “the rabbi of the psilos”