Socio-psychedelic imaginaries: envisioning and building legal psychedelic worlds in the United States

Claudia Schwarz-Plaschg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal article (peer-reviewed)Journal article

11 Citations (Scopus)


After decades of criminalization, psychedelic substances such as psilocybin and LSD are experiencing their comeback in science and Western culture more broadly. While psychedelic plants and fungi have a long history of use in Indigenous cultures, the Western prohibitionist reality instantiated around 1970 has stigmatized psychedelics as medically useless and a threat to society. Yet studies are increasingly demonstrating their potential to treat widespread mental health conditions such as PTSD, depression, or anxiety in combination with psychotherapy. Most of this research is currently taking place in the US, where additionally decriminalization and legalization efforts and religious exemptions have paved the way to make psychedelics legally accessible. Based on 3 years of ethnographic research in the US (both in-person and virtual), this article explores contemporary US-American socio-psychedelic imaginaries, i.e., collective visions articulated and enacted to reintegrate psychedelics legally and responsibly into society. Four socio-psychedelic imaginaries are identified, described, and interpreted: the biomedicalization imaginary, decriminalization imaginary, legalization imaginary, and sacramental imaginary. These imaginaries diverge and converge around several politics: politics of access, politics of responsibility, politics of naming, politics of assimilation and social change, and politics of epistemic credibility. Contemporary socio-psychedelic imaginaries are co-evolving, mutually shaping, and amplifying each other. Together they function as societal corrective to the politically motivated prohibition of psychedelics. Although enacted by humans, the radical imagination expressed in socio-psychedelic imaginaries has its roots in human-psychedelics entanglements.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10
JournalEuropean Journal of Futures Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Biomedicalization
  • Decriminalization
  • Drug policy reform
  • Entheogens
  • Imaginaries
  • Legalization
  • Psychedelics
  • Sacraments
  • Sacred plants
  • Social change

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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