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. Colorado voters approved the initiative measure, which legalizes psilocybin for therapeutic purposes, in the November 8 election with nearly 54% of ballots cast.
“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 is the founder of The Sacred Tribe, a religious group based in Denver that uses psilocybin and other methods as paths to spiritual enlightenment. In January, police raided a warehouse in Denver where he was allegedly growing more than 30 varieties of psychedelic mushrooms. Gorelick was arrested the following month and charged with possession with intent to manufacture or distribute a controlled substance, a first-degree felony. In June, he told High Times that he intended to fight the charges, which carried a mandatory minimum sentence of at least eight years, on religious freedom grounds.
Group Ends Psychedelics Services After Raid
After the police raid earlier this year, The Sacred Tribe temporarily suspended its activities. The group has since begun meeting again for religious dinners and other events without the use of psilocybin. 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 maintains that there is a long tradition of psychedelics in Judaism, although other Jewish leaders who advocate for the use of psychedelics dispute his assertion of their history. One of those advocates, Rabbi Zac Kamenetz, who was ordained by an Orthodox rabbi in Israel, formed the psychedelics advocacy group Shefa and hopes that one day the powerful compounds will become an accepted part of Jewish spirituality.
Kamenetz took part in a study that researched the effect psilocybin has on religious leaders. He supports the use of psilocybin for spiritual purposes, although he warns that until they are legalized, psychedelics should only be taken as part of approved research.
“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.”