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Psychedelic Advocate Facing Charges Calls for Help, Law Reform in New York

New York State Police officers arrested Aaron Genuth, a psychedelic advocate in Ulster County on Friday, June 10. For allegedly possessing a variety of psychedelics, including LSD and MDMA as well as ketamine and psilocybin, Genuth is currently facing severe charges. Genuth appeals to the support of the psychedelic communities.

Genuth’s vehicle was impounded, and beyond the severe charges he’s facing, he also has to deal with mounting legal fees. A GoFundMe was set up to help Genuth handle growing fees and charges, with support from the Hudson Valley Psychedelic Society and Dr. Bronner’s.

Genuth is founder and president of Darkhei Rephua—a Jewish entheogenic nonprofit he founded. Aaron has advocated for drug policy reform, cannabis and psychedelics for 15+ years. Decriminalize New York and the Hudson Valley Psychedelic Society are his other organizations. He has produced and hosted a number of community events throughout New York City, upstate New York and the surrounding areas.

“Ironically, the psychedelics Aaron is being charged with are either legal in clinical settings, scientifically proven to be beneficial medicines, decriminalized in some places, or on the brink of legalization,” his GoFundMe reads. Ketamine has been approved by the FDA in clinical settings. However, the National Institutes of Health funds psilocybin studies. All things psychedelics are experiencing a boom in the world of psycho-assisted treatment.

According to GoFundMe Genuth works with Andrew Kossover from Kossover Law. Genuth’s work has also included Bail Reform leadership, Discovery Reform, as well reform of Rockefeller Drug Laws.

Genuth’s friends and associates are helping to raise funds that will help him B) retrieve his vehicle and C) get back on the road. This will cover his first expenses as he evaluates and pays the legal fees and the charges.

Genuth spoke to Chronic NewsInformation about the case of his client and current circumstances.

Chronic NewsIf you are unsure, please contact us. AnyoneAre you a psychedelic user (or someone who uses cannabis) and are you in prison?

Genuth: No. I am not a supporter of cannabis or psychedelics in prison. Cannabis and psychedelic reform and legalization need to prioritize decriminalization and prisoner release and they really haven’t thus far.

Do you believe that there were legitimate educational reasons, given the work done with Hudson Valley Psychedelic Society & Darkhei Rephua for using psychedelics in your life?

Although I was able to confirm that I had, I shouldn’t have said more because the case is still active. I will add that there’s no legitimate reason to arrest people for psychedelic or other drug possession.

Let us know what Darkhei rephua means to you.

Darkhei Rephua, a Jewish psychedelic non-profit 501(c),3 that I established just before the pandemic started, is a 501 (c)3 Jewish nonprofit. We are focused on healing and spirituality that is grounded in nature and community. Prioritizing advocacy and culture for psychedelic medicines, psychedelic experience, and medicine. Over the last few years we’ve been hosting gatherings and outreach for New York’s psychedelic and cannabis communities, primarily in NYC and the Catskills. Darkhei was born out of the increasing positive attention to clinical research, and the limited research that has been done on psychedelics by institutions like Johns Hopkins or NYU. Everyone should be able to access psychedelic healing and research in whatever setting is best for them. This includes those who are most at ease with their doctor, whether in a clinical environment or in research. I don’t, and I wouldn’t recommend it for most people. I’m concerned that the current representation and media around psychedelics still reinforces the idea that they are dangerous substances that most people shouldn’t be legally allowed to access, produce, or consume. That’s part of the same false narrative around cannabis that still exists—the idea that it should only be medically legal, or only legal if bought through legally regulated outlets, I believe that psychedelics should be represented in an honest and ethical way that first addresses the injustices of criminalization, the class and cost barriers that currently exists, and the fact that humans have been intentionally pursuing spiritual, transcendental, and drug experiences for our entire existence. Institutional researchers shouldn’t have any more legal access to psilocybin than community healers, or anyone capable of cultivating and consuming them. That’s what Darkhei Rephua represents to me, and hopefully to our community.

We would love to hear about your participation with Decriminalize Nature New York.

The organic and psychedelic connection I had to Decriminalize Nature was very natural. The idea of the group and its members were introduced to me a few weeks before it was passed in Oakland. As I was volunteering for the Queering Psychedelics Conference, I learned a lot about this resolution and the expectation that it would pass unanimously. This was just after the Denver Psilocybin Initiative had passed and the locally targeted and cultivation focused elements of Decriminalize Nature’s resolution, as well as expanding beyond psilocybin to include all naturally occurring entheogens inspired me to launch it in New York, thinking that we may have a good chance of passing a resolution in one of the progressive towns in the Hudson Valley. New York City was where I was located at that time, so I helped to launch the group. Since the pandemic I’ve been spending most of my time in New York in the Catskills and Hudson Valley, where I joined the founding board of the Hudson Valley Psychedelic Society as director of outreach and policy.

I’ve been a religious and recreational cannabis and psychedelic user for most of my life and I was deeply disappointed with many elements of cannabis ‘legalization’. For publications including The Californian, I was able to spend some time covering legalized cannabis in California. Chronic News. I’d fallen in love with Northern California’s cannabis community and culture in 2006 or so, ever since my first visit to a pot farm in Humboldt County when I was dragged out west from Brooklyn by hippie friends for my first national Rainbow Gathering. Around 2013, I worked as a cannabis analyst, learning about California’s legal and Washington’s medical markets. After Prop 64 was passed, the cannabis industry transformed quickly into a heavily taxed and regulated corporate structure. I recognized the Decriminalize Nature model as much more reflective of what many of us wanted and expected to see from cannabis legalization; a complete and permanent end to law enforcement’s ability to arrest or otherwise violently harass us, and the right of all people to cultivate and share plants and fungi. Until we’ve done that, we’re still allowing the perpetuation of the horrific legacies of Anslinger, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, Biden, and their many partners in drug war injustice and mass incarceration.

Recently, the New York City group had issues with the Oakland national board regarding their antagonistic practices and strategies. A Decrim First coalition has been formed by some local organizations. It includes all psychedelics, and advocates for decriminalization. We’ll be operating under that banner while we work through the internal and external issues currently facing Decriminalize Nature. I’ve also been actively working with the New York Psilocybin Action Committee (NYPAC) to advocate for state level reforms that include decriminalization and cultivation in next year’s legislative session. I’ve also worked continually with Students for Sensible Drug Policy because they’re awesome and maintain the focus on student leadership in ending the war on drugs, which, as they like to remind us, is a war on (some) people.

New York
At NYC’s 2022 Cannabis Parade & Rally at Union Square / Courtesy of Aaron Genuth

Was there anything that happened June 10, 2010?

I’ll have to be somewhat sensitive about what I say here again, since the case is still active. An expired inspection sticker was the reason I was stopped. The officer pulled me over for an expired inspection sticker. I refused to give consent, and he searched my vehicle. To make a long and possibly embarrassing story short, I was arrested with possessing psilocybin (LSD), MDMA and Ketamine. The 98 grams of psilocybin was initially charged as a felony, which would include a mandatory minimum of 3 years in state prison if convicted at trial under New York’s reformed but still draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws. Thanks to the Hudson Valley Psychedelic Society supporters, I was able retain a qualified, competent lawyer. Fortunately, the assistant DA has been familiarized with the positive research regarding psilocybin and Oregon legalization. This allowed her to drop the felony down from a felony. I’m optimistic that my documented advocacy work and the very well documented benefits and positive research results surrounding all of these psychedelics will lead to a relatively positive resolution. I’ve pointed out many times since my arrest that a person without my network and willingness to fight might be in a much more difficult position, particularly if they are a parent and holding a state regulated license, for example a nurse or teacher. A person who is in this position could lose custody or their job, regardless of what the verdict of the trial will bring. This can have long-lasting negative consequences on their lives.

Are you frustrated that FDA-approved treatment options for ketamine assisted therapy are available, and yet severe penalties are in place?

Yes, very. It’s just as frustrating to me that ketamine treatments are prohibitively expensive for many, despite the drug being very plentiful and cheap to produce. That’s not to suggest that every practitioner is gouging people, the issue at its root is regulatory; the combination of bad drug and healthcare policy creating a perfect storm of disproportionate harm that targets the poorest and most vulnerable. Ketamine was first granted ‘breakthrough’ status by the FDA in 2013 and there’s clinics and practitioners all over the country legally providing this medicine safely, legally, and therapeutically—often with incredible results for people suffering from Treatment Resistant Depression, severe PTSD, and suicidality. It’s absurd that it’s not accessibly available to everyone who needs it in the middle of an extended national mental health, suicide, overdose, and financial crisis. Personal belief is that all psychoactive drugs should be covered by a Universal Holistic Healthcare Program, as well as any other healing modality.

What are some of the charges you’re facing?

Paraphernalia and scale charges were brought against me. I also had to pay for the bags in which the mushrooms were stored. I also got charged with a DUI, which is the charge I’m most concerned about since it’s completely false, I was absolutely sober and returned from the grocery store at 10:30am. I’m an advocate for drug users, drug possession, and responsible drug use, but not for driving unsafely or unsoberly so I’m going to fight those charges from every angle possible. The paraphernalia charges also shouldn’t exist, and are addressed in a bill that Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal will be introducing in the state legislature next year. I was part of the Decrim community that worked with AM Rosenthal on these and other amendments to her bill to de-schedule and remove psilocin and psilocybin. We also worked with her team on another bill she’s introducing, to introduce more decriminalized and community based research and openings to treatment.

Is there anything readers can do right now to assist?

My case is hopefully going in the right direction, but it’s been a very expensive disruption to my life and work. Thank you for your support of my GoFundMe. We have a special offer currently; a limited number of donors giving $54 or more will receive a Dr. Bronner’s Magic All-One Chocolate, which they’ve generously provided and allowed me to offer as an incentive. The chocolates taste great, are vegan-friendly and fair traded. They also contain no weeds or mushrooms. New Yorkers and those who are connected to New York should join Decrim First, the coalition that supports NYPAC. I can tell you that it is easiest to contact me or to comment on Instagram @DecrimFirst.

I also urge all New Yorkers who care and can to actively support the policies represented in AM Rosenthal’s legislation by reaching out to your state representatives to support and co-sponsor it, and to push for local reform. For assistance in reaching out and educating local law enforcement and legislators about legislation and policy, please contact us! We’ve got templates for legislation, outreach materials, and experienced advocates and experts ready to back you up. Also, testimonials recorded on video and written can be extremely influential. We believe that New York must take immediate steps to meaningful reform that includes cultivation, decriminalization, and community access, and that it’s possible within the next year.