Oakland considers telling police to make psychedelic drugs among the lowest priority

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Oakland could become the second city in the country to decriminalize certain natural psychedelics — including “magic mushrooms.”

The city’s Public Safety Committee on Tuesday passed the first reading of a resolution that would make the investigation and arrest of people using “entheogenic plants” among the “lowest priority for the city of Oakland.”  The measure would decriminalize mushrooms containing psilocybin, as well as the psychedelic plants ayahuasca, cacti and iboga. The measure does not include synthetic drugs like LSD or MDMA, also known as ecstasy.

The issue now goes to the full council on June 4. 

Local authorities say they are not alarmed or particularly concerned by the move. In Alameda County, the number of arrests made per year for use or possession of psychedelic drugs is low — perhaps a dozen per year — according to the San Francisco Chronicle. 

Councilman Noel Gallo introduced the resolution saying that not arresting and prosecuting people who are using natural psychedelics could help people with mental health issues. And his report noted that internationally, some mushrooms are legal in Brazil, Jamaica, the Netherlands and Portugal. In Gabon, a plant called iboga is considered a “national treasure.” And Gallo’s report also notes that plants such as peyote are sacred to Native Americans and yet is still considered illegal in California. 
“This initiative aims to empower the Oakland community by restoring their relationship to nature,” the resolution states.

Not only are many of these plants used for healing, but recently, scientific studies are demonstrating that entheogens can be beneficial for treating end-of-life anxiety, substance abuse, addiction, cluster headaches, PTSD, neurodegeneration, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and treatment resistant depression, the resolution states.

Still, there are counter studies that note how psilocybins can be used for both good and bad. They are Schedule I drugs, meaning they have a high potential for abuse and the hallucinations can become disturbing. 

The move in Oakland comes amid a wave of decriminalization efforts nationwide that some advocates, such as Decriminalize Nature, are calling a psychedelic “renaissance,” the San Francisco Chronicle noted.

Denver voters approved decriminalization of hallucinogenic mushrooms earlier this month, and statewide initiatives are brewing in California and Oregon.

Plus, California activists are also working to draft a ballot initiative to decriminalize psilocybin statewide. Earlier this month they took the initial step of outlining the proposed measure's goals and asked the state Office of Legislative Council for assistance in crafting ballot language.

Elsewhere, activists in Oregon are already collecting signatures for an initiative that would legalize psilocybin for medical use and otherwise reduce penalties for the substance.

Both the California and Oregon efforts aim to qualify the measures for their state's 2020 presidential election ballots.