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Denver Drops Charges Against Rabbi Ben Gorelick

The Denver district attorney’s office has dropped felony drugs charges filed against Rabbi Ben Gorelick, citing voters’ approval of a psilocybin legalization ballot measure in last month’s midterm elections. At a preliminary hearing in the case on December 8, prosecutors moved to dismiss charges against Gorelick and a chemist arrested in a police raid last winter, saying the motion was filed “in the interest of justice.”

Carolyn Tyler, a Denver District Attorney’s Office spokesperson, said that the decision to dismiss the felony charges against the defendants was made “in light of the voters’ decision” to approve Proposition 122. The initiative measure that legalizes the use of psilocybin to treat pain was approved by Colorado voters in November 8. Nearly 54% cast their ballots.

“I don’t know what everything got dismissed on or for,” Gorelick told The Denver Post. “At this point in time, what I can tell you is I’m very, very, very grateful to the DA’s office for dropping the case. It’s been a long year for the community, it’s been a long year for us, and we look forward to getting back to practicing our religion, which is what the whole point of this is.”

Gorelick founded The Sacred Tribe in Denver, a religious organization that utilizes psilocybin as well as other techniques to achieve spiritual enlightenment. A warehouse in Denver was raided by police on January 1st. There, he was accused of growing more than 30 kinds of psychedelic mushroom varieties. The following month, Gorelick was taken into custody and charged with possessing with intent to produce or distribute controlled substances. This is a first-degree felony. He told reporters in June that he was arrested for possession with intent to manufacture or distribute a controlled substance. Chronic NewsHe stated that he was going to contest the charges. The mandatory minimum sentence for religious freedom violations of eight years or more is required.

Group Ends Psychedelics Services After Raid

The Sacred Tribe was temporarily shut down after a raid by police earlier in the year. After the raid, The Sacred Tribe temporarily suspended its activities. Since then, it has been meeting up again to hold religious dinners and other events. Elle Logan, who has been a member of the group since last year, said the case “broke the community in a lot of ways,” but added that she was not surprised when the charges against Gorelick were dropped.

“The psychedelic movement, the plant medicine movement, and with Prop 122 passing, there’s amazing momentum going into a brand new future that looks really different for a lot of people in terms of mental health and spiritual wellness,” Logan said. “Ben’s heart has been in that place from the get-go… I’ve known his heart the whole time, that’s never been in question and I’m glad the court saw it too.”

Gorelick insists there is a long history of Judaism using psychedelics. However, other Jewish leaders that support the use of these substances dispute this assertion. Rabbi Zac Kamenetz (an Orthodox Rabbi in Israel) was one such advocate. His group Shefa advocates psychedelics and hopes the powerful substances will be accepted into Jewish spirituality. 

Kamenetz was part of a study on the impact of psilocybin upon religious leaders. Kamenetz supports the spiritual use of psilocybin, but warns that they should not be used unless legalized.

“I’m one of the very few people who can say they’ve had a legal experience with psychedelics in this country,” Kamenetz said last year. “To be able to speak freely about it without the stigma — because it’s not just people talking about doing illegal things — it’s allowed people to start having a more open conversation about it. When there’s the opportunity to hear from someone who did this in a legal environment, people will listen more.”