In a vast stride forward for the nationwide movement to legalize psilocybin—or “magic” mushrooms—the Oakland City Council has voted unanimously to decriminalize natural psychedelics—including mushrooms—making the major California Bay Area city the second city in the United States to do so.
The resolution orders law enforcement to immediately halt the investigation and prosecution of those who use the drugs and applies to psychedelics that derive from plants and fungi, including psilocybin mushrooms and the psychedelic plants ayahuasca, cacti and iboga. The law will not apply to synthetic drugs like LSD, MDMA (ecstasy), or other manmade chemicals.
The move comes one month after voters in Denver approved the decriminalization of psilocybin mushrooms, halting the use of city resources to pursue criminal penalties for people over 21 who use or possess magic mushrooms.
Following the vote in Oakland, 100 supporters rose from their chairs, clapping and cheering for the move, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Nicolle Greenheart, co-founder of Decriminalize Nature Oakland, said:
Save the date and spread the word!!! June 4th, 2019! We will start gathering at 7pm to prepare for the final City Council vote to #DecriminalizeNature #Oakland! There is room for more than 2-300 people with overflow, let’s pack the house! pic.twitter.com/0Db4xARHFt
— Decriminalize Nature (@DecrimNature) May 31, 2019
In addition to demanding that police halt the policing of the drugs, the resolution also instructs state and federal lobbyists from Oakland to push a decriminalization agenda. The resolution further calls for the Alameda County district attorney’s officials to “cease prosecution of persons involved in the use of Entheogenic Plants or plant-based compounds” that are presently listed in Schedule I of the federal Controlled Substances Act.
The resolution was championed by Councilman Noel Gallo, who introduced it after meeting with Decriminalize Nature, supporters of the use of natural psychedelics for mental health and people’s wellbeing.
Gallo told the Chronicle that the move is a strong step toward legitimizing the medicinal use of the plants, explaining:
“My grandmother took care of us. She didn’t go to Walgreens to heal us spiritually and physically, she did it out of plants we use as Native Americans.”
The Oakland City Council listened to the testimonies of 30 people who emphatically laid out how psilocybin helped them deal with mental health disorders including depression, anxiety, addiction, and trauma, according to USA Today.
During public comment, one woman said:
“I wasn’t really living a life, I was so disconnected … it was hard for me to survive everyday. It has helped me reach deep inside my soul and helped cure damage that had been done to me.”
Another man who explained that he struggled with heroin addiction said:
“It was the most beautiful and life-changing thing that ever happened to me.”
The council president, Rebecca Kaplan, thanked supporters of the resolution for sharing their “deep and personal and profound” stories.
An amendment to the resolution clarifies that it does not authorize the commercial sale or manufacture of the plants, possession or distribution in schools, or driving while under the influence of the psychedelic drugs.
The amendment also explains that potential users of psychedelics who are in the throes of depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) should first consult with a doctor before taking a dose, adding that natural psychedelics should be used in small doses for inexperienced users and “don’t go solo.”
The move comes as a growing body of research has laid out the benefits of magic mushrooms. Recent studies have shown how a microdose of psilocybin—far from the level needed for a full-blown trip—actually increases the creativity and empathy of participants. Advocates note that psilocybin has shown great promise in psychotherapeutic settings, shattering the decades-old stereotype of magic mushrooms as some intoxicating and hallucination-inducing party drug that drives its users insane.
Speaking before last week’s public safety committee, Councilman Gallo explained:
“We want to be able to provide another medical service… to be able to help us at home and that is what this is all about … And it’s nothing new. It’s been happening for thousands of years in different countries, in different spiritual backgrounds.”
The passage of the resolution comes amid a wave of activism supporting policy changes that would decriminalize natural psychedelics, with similar efforts advancing in the state of Iowa along with efforts to place a psilocybin legalization measure on the ballot in Oregon.