Denver drops charges against Rabbi Ben Gorelick
The Denver District Attorney’s Office has dropped drug-related charges against Rabbi Ben Gorelick, citing voter approval of a ballot measure to legalize psilocybin in last month’s midterm elections. At a December 8 preliminary hearing in the case, prosecutors moved to drop charges against Gorelick and a chemist, who were arrested in a police raid last winter, saying the move was “in the interests of justice.” been submitted.
Carolyn Tyler, a spokeswoman for the Denver Attorney’s Office, said the decision to dismiss the felony charges against the defendants was made “in light of voters’ decision” to approve Proposition 122. Colorado voters approved the initiative legalizing psilocybin for therapeutic purposes in the Nov. 8 election with nearly 54% of the votes cast.
“I don’t know why everything got fired,” Gorelick told the Denver Post. “At this point I can tell you that I am very, very, very grateful to the DA’s office for dropping the case. It’s been a long year for the fellowship, it’s been a long year for us, and we look forward to practicing our religion again, and that’s the whole point.”
Gorelick is the founder of The Sacred Tribe, a Denver-based religious group that uses psilocybin and other methods as avenues to spiritual enlightenment. In January, police raided a Denver warehouse where he allegedly grew more than 30 strains 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 the High Times that he intends to appeal the charges, which carry a mandatory minimum sentence of at least eight years, on religious freedom grounds.
Group Shuts Down Psychedelics Services After Raid
Following the police raid earlier this year, The Sacred Tribe temporarily suspended its activities. The group has since met 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 “devastated the community in many ways,” but added that she wasn’t surprised when the charges against Gorelick were dropped.
“The psychedelic movement, the plant medicine movement, and with the disappearance of Prop 122, 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 well-being,” Logan said. “Ben’s heart was in this place from the start … I know his heart all along, that was never in question and I’m glad the court saw it too.”
Gorelick claims that there is a long tradition of using psychedelics in Judaism, although other Jewish leaders promoting psychedelics dispute his claim of their history. One of those advocates, Rabbi Zac Kamenetz, who was ordained by an Orthodox rabbi in Israel, founded the psychedelics advocacy group Shefa and hopes the powerful connections will one day become an accepted part of Jewish spirituality.
Kamenetz participated in a study examining the effects of psilocybin on religious leaders. He supports the use of psilocybin for spiritual purposes, although he warns that psychedelics should only be taken as part of approved research until they are legalized.
“I’m one of the very few people who can say they have legal experience with psychedelics in this country,” Kamenetz said last year. “Being able to talk about it freely and without stigma – because it’s not just about doing illegal things – has allowed people to have a more open conversation about it. If there is an opportunity to hear from someone who has done this in a legal setting, people will listen more.”