Oakland Takes First Steps Toward Decriminalization

Oakland activists arrange May 28 meeting with the city council to discuss decriminalizing entheogens.

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Last week saw the historic vote to decriminalize psilocybin (“magic”) mushrooms in the city of Denver, Colorado. Denverites narrowly passed the ballot initiative, Initiative 301, with “Yes” receiving 50.56% of the vote. The city of Oakland, California, aims to take their efforts a step further, with advocacy group “Decriminalize Nature” calling for an end to the prosecution of individuals found in possession of a range of psychedelic plants and fungi, often referred to as entheogens.  Ibogaine, mescaline cacti, ayahuasca, and psilocybin mushrooms would all fall under this category under the new resolution. At present, the above mentioned entheogenic plants and fungi appear on the list of Schedule I drugs under the US Controlled Substance Act (CSA).

Who is Involved?

As per a recent Forbes article, the Oakland City Council’s Public Safety Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on May 28 to discuss the proposed resolution. The resolution aims to limit the police and authorities from using “any city funds or resources to assist in the enforcement of laws imposing criminal penalties for the use and possession” of psychedelic plants and fungi. If the resolution receives backing from the Public Safety Committee, it will be brought before the full council for a final vote.

Decriminalize Nature has, at this point, gained the support of five out of eight City Council members, with additional meetings scheduled for the coming weeks. In an interview with Marijuana Moment, Larry Norris, the advocacy groups co-founder and committee member stated, “The way that we’re talking to the City Council members is really just talking about this as a community-based resolution. We’re talking about the health and wellness possibilities; we’re talking about the medical possibilities, we’re talking about the spiritual possibilities.”

What Will This Resolution Change?

It is important to note that the passing of the resolution is not legally binding and would merely convey the opinion of the council. The city’s enforcement code concerning psychedelic plants and fungi would remain unchanged. However, those involved in the campaign believe that the passing of the resolution would influence the mayor to take action, ordering local authorities to cease in their targeting of individuals for psychedelic-related offenses. In fact, the investigation and arrest of individuals consuming, growing or distributing entheogens would be demoted to “the lowest law enforcement priority” for the city’s police force. Moreover,  the resolution would also direct Oakland’s state and federal lobbyists to “work in support of decriminalizing” psychedelics.

A Growing Movement

Findings from rigorous scientific studies are virtually unanimous in their conclusions that entheogens/psychedelics provide therapeutic relief in a multitude of disorders, such as end-of-life anxiety, substance abuse, addiction, cluster-headaches, PTSD, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder.1-4 Oakland’s push for the acceptance and decriminalization of entheogens is part of a broader national dialogue and a shift in perception to these plant medicines.  Earlier this month, members of the activist group Decriminalize California asked for assistance from the state Office of Legislative Council in drafting a ballot initiative to decriminalize psilocybin statewide. Oregon activists are also collecting signatures for a proposed initiative that aims to legalize psilocybin for medical use and reduce current penalties for possession of the compound.

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    References
  1. Holtzheimer PE. Advances in the Management of Treatment-Resistant Depression. Focus (Am Psychiatr Publ). 2010;8(4):488-500. doi:10.1176/foc.8.4.foc488.
  2. Daniel J, Haberman M. Clinical potential of psilocybin as a treatment for mental health conditions. Ment Health Clin. 2017;7(1):24-28. doi: 10.9740/mhc.2017.01.024.
  3. Griffiths RR, Johnson MW, Carducci MA. Psilocybin produces substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer: A randomized double-blind trial. J Psychopharmacol. 2016;30(12):1181-1197. doi:10.1177/0269881116675513.
  4. Nielson EM, May DG, Forceheims AA. The Psychedelic Debriefing in Alcohol Dependence Treatment: Illustrating Key Change Phenomena through Qualitative Content Analysis of Clinical Sessions. Front Pharmacol. 2018;9. doi:10.3389/fphar.2018.00132.