Earlier this month, Denver became the first US city to decriminalize psilocybin.
The city of Oakland, California may become the second city in the United States to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms (i.e. magic mushrooms), following the recent example of Denver.
Early May, voters in Denver, Colorado approved a ballot initiative to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms by a narrow margin, with 50.64% voting in favor of Ordinance 301. The measure does not legalize magic mushrooms, but effectively prohibits the city from prosecuting or arresting adults for possession.
Now, Oakland city officials are considering doing the same.
Oakland’s resolution, provided by Decriminalize Nature Oakland, specifically refers to the decriminalization of “entheogenic plants,” which in addition to psilocybin include ayahuasca, cacti (mescaline) and iboga—i.e. “the full spectrum of plants, fungi, and natural materials… that can inspire personal and spiritual well-being, can benefit psychological and physical wellness, and can reestablish human’s inalienable and direct relationship to nature.”
The federal government has long classified psilocybin mushrooms under Schedule I—the category of drugs that are defined as having no medical value and a high potential for abuse. Drug policy reform advocates disagree with the federal government’s decision to classify drugs like psilocybin and cannabis under Schedule I, where heroin also resides.
NBC Bay Area reported that Oakland officials planned to discuss the issue on Tuesday (May 28) at a public hearing before the City Council’s public safety committee. The issue could go before the full council as early as June 4, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Councilman Noel Gallo introduced the resolution after being approached by Decriminalize Nature Oakland. Gallo told the Chronicle that the city’s mental health problem may benefit from the decriminalized use of psilocybin mushrooms, which has been studied for its medical properties.
“We need all the help we can get to deal with the mental health issues that we have. If I can bring it publicly and talk about the benefit and talk about (how it can) deal with the mental illnesses that we have in the city, why not?” said Gallo.
Researcher Matthew Johnson of Johns Hopkins University says there is reason to be optimistic about psilocybin’s abilities to have a positive impact on mental health issues such as PTSD, depression, addiction and more. “The data are really impressive,” he told the Chronicle. “We should be cautiously but enthusiastically pursuing these threads.”
The Oakland measure also has the support of Council President Rebecca Kaplan. “I believe we need to continue to support efforts to help end mass incarceration and I recognize that the war on drugs has been a racist, expensive, wasteful failure. I also believe there are strong public health reasons to support this change,” she told the Chronicle.