Oakland, California Could Become Second City to Decriminalize Psychedelic Mushrooms

The Oakland City Council committee in Northern California voted to approve a proposal to decriminalize natural psychedelic plants and fungi, including “magic mushrooms.” The proposal is expected to go to the full council for a vote today, June 4. If the measure passes, Oakland would follow Denver, Colorado as the second city in the U.S. to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms.

The new proposal would make the investigation and arrest of individuals involved with psychedelic plants and fungi the lowest priority for the city of Oakland. The Oakland proposal would also decriminalize other plant and fungi-based drugs, including ayahuasca and peyote. The substances will remain in Schedule I of the federal Controlled Substances Act.

Psilocybin mushrooms and other psychedelics have grown in popularity due to the potential for the drugs to help ease anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction. The FDA recently acknowledged that mushrooms could be a potential treatment for depression. Research has also shown that psilocybin is not addictive and causes less emergency room visits than other drugs.

Last fall, researchers at Johns Hopkins University recommended that psilocybin be reclassified from a Schedule I to a Schedule IV drug. “The data are really impressive. We should be cautiously but enthusiastically pursuing these threads,” said Matthew Johnson, an associate professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University. “We want to be aware of over exuberance, but at the same time, we have to avoid falling into a kind of dogmatic skepticism.”

A previous effort to legalize psilocybin on California’s 2018 ballot failed. Oregon advocates for legalization of psilocybin are pushing for their own legalization on the 2020 ballot. A Republican senator in Iowa has proposed two bills regarding psilocybin, one removing the drug from the state’s list of controlled substances, and one legalizing it for medical use.

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