While much of California continues to break boundaries on legalizing cannabis, Oakland is poised to follow in Denver’s footsteps in bringing a different substance to the mainstream: natural psychedelics.
On Tuesday, May 28, Oakland City Council’s safety committee approved a resolution that would decriminalize natural psychedelics, including mushrooms, which would make Oakland only the second city in the US to do so.
To be clear, both Denver and Oakland are on track to decriminalize mushrooms and other natural psychedelics, not legalize them. Magic Mushrooms are still illegal to sell and remain a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law, regardless of the steps taken within city limits.
Oakland’s resolution serves to instruct law enforcement to cease investigations and prosecutions of people using substances that come from fungi or plants. The resolution does not apply to synthetic psychedelics like MDMA or LSD.
The resolution will now go to the City Council for deliberation and approval.
Why Legalizing Mushrooms is on Oakland’s Radar
Even though Oakland rarely sees an arrest over these types of drugs, committee member Noel Gallo, who introduced the measure, says that it’s a necessary step toward legalizing and legitimizing the use of plants for medicinal purposes, particularly in treating depression. Advocacy groups like Decriminalize Nature Oakland are trying to bring the health benefits into the conversation and break the stigmas that could suppress the measure from passing.
It’s also a way of telling law enforcement that there are more important issues than busting otherwise law-abiding citizens over the use of natural substances.
“Many of us are using the natural plants to help us not only with our mental needs, but our physical needs and so I’m here to support that,” says Gallo. “...Let’s focus on that and leave our community alone when it comes to trying to take care of our medical needs through native plants.”
The resolution introduced by Gallo seeks to decriminalize mushrooms that contain psilocybin, which is a natural hallucinogenic alkaloid, along with the psychedelic plants cacti, iboga, and ayahuasca. Denver was the first city (and only city to date) to pass a similar measure. Other California cities are currently building similar initiatives that is leading to what many are calling the “psychedelic renaissance.”
Weighing Public Response with Legal Complexities
The public response for the measure has been overwhelming. Nearly 100 people showed up to City Council to express their support and their reasons for doing so.
“Oakland should decriminalize on one fact and one fact alone,” Gary Kono said to the four-person committee. “It never should have been criminalized in the first place.”
However, the process of decriminalizing natural psychedelics will face many of the same challenges that mainstreaming marijuana has brought, namely in protecting the public. Loren Taylor, the only committee member not to approve the measure, notes that it’s something that could easily be taken advantage of and will need to consider all implications before moving forward.
“I think there is potential and value,” notes Taylor. “My tendency is to make sure that we are really being deliberate in how we go about it and not just sort of opening it up carte blanche.”
If the resolution is approved by Oakland’s City Council, the process may follow a similar path to Denver’s.
Stay in touch via the Margolin Lawrence blog for more developments on California drug laws.