Denver may have been the first U.S. city to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms when residents voted yes to the measure on May 3. But Oakland, California just did Denver one better, becoming the first U.S. city to decriminalize not just psilocybin, but ayahuasca, iboga and other psychedelic plants, cacti and fungi. On Tuesday, Oakland City Council voted unanimously in favor of broadly decriminalizing natural psychedelics and hallucinogenics. The measure does not cover synthetic drugs like LSD or ecstasy. But it does cover compounds like DMT, psilocybin and mescaline, which are also federally illegal, scheduled controlled substances.
Mushrooms, DMT and Other Psychedelics Now Oakland Law Enforcement’s Lowest Priority
Did Oakland really just decriminalize mushrooms, DMT, and other psychedelics? In a sense, yes. But in this case, “decriminalized” is shorthand for what Oakland City Council really approved. And that’s to stop using city funds to enforce laws criminalizing people for the use and possession of psychedelics. So, psychedelics aren’t technically decriminalized. California’s laws criminalizing them, not to mention federal laws, still exist—at least for now.
Instead, law enforcement now has to stop enforcing those laws, including any cases currently pending. The prohibition will still be there, but the city council’s vote makes enforcing its law enforcement’s lowest priority. Besides that, police can’t use city funds to investigate, arrest or charge anyone with possession or use of psychedelics. And that means, for the most part, that police will leave them alone.
Natural Psychedelics Embark on the Same Path as Cannabis
If you remember the very early days of marijuana reform, you’ll recall that it began virtually identically to what’s happening with psychedelics in Denver and Oakland right now. Before weed was fully decriminalized, before it became legal for recreational use by adults, cities passed resolutions to make enforcing weed crimes cops’ lowest priority. That didn’t completely stop police from cracking down on simple possession and use offenses. But it helped, and it paved the way for the expansion of decriminalization and in 10 states, legalization.
It’s exactly that excitement, that hope and that relief that overcame decriminalization advocates after Oakland City Council’s vote Tuesday night. According to reports, nearly 100 supporters gave council members a standing ovation.
“I don’t have words, I could cry,” said Nicolle Greenheart, the co-founder of Decriminalize Nature Oakland. “I’m thrilled. I’m glad that our communities will now have access to healing medicines and we can start working on healing our communities.”
Is a Psychedelic Renaissance Emerging?
Psychedelic mushrooms, plants and cacti, or more specifically, the compounds in them—DMT, psilocybin, mescaline—are gaining increasing recognition and legitimacy and therapeutic, medicinal substances. Of course, the use of psychedelics dates back millennia, and they have been central to the spiritual ceremonies and healing practices of many cultures.
Now, it looks like modern medicine may be catching up. Recent studies have shown how therapeutic doses of psychedelic substances can heal and regenerate brain tissue and help treat mental illnesses ranging from depression to post-traumatic stress disorder. Other studies show how psychedelics can help with addiction. Researchers are finding out how psychedelic experiences expand consciousness and improve mental health. In short, more medical professionals are beginning to take psychedelics seriously. And as a result, they’re beginning to unlock their vast potential for human health and wellness.