Oakland second city in USA to allow ‘magic mushrooms’

Oakland police will no longer enforce laws against psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca, peyote and other psychedelic plants.

In this Friday, May 24, 2019 photo a vendor bags psilocybin mushrooms at a cannabis marketplace in Los Angeles. Oakland City Council will vote Tuesday, June 4, 2019, to decriminalize the possession and use of entheogenic, or psychoactive, plants and fungi. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
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OAKLAND — Using psilocybin mushrooms, also known as “magic mushrooms,” as well as ayahuasca and peyote will now be allowed in Oakland, the second city in the country to give “shrooms” the OK.

The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a resolution barring police from enforcing laws banning the use of “entheogenic” — or psychoactive — plants, which include psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca, peyote and others. Though Oakland police rarely come across the substances, Councilman Noel Gallo brought forward the resolution in an effort to “empower communities to share knowledge and continue building an above-ground infrastructure around entheogens,” he said in the proposal.

Dozens of supporters of the effort packed Tuesday’s meeting to testify to the benefits of using entheogenics — not for recreation, but for therapy. Some psychiatrists said that the resolution allows them to use entheogenics in their practice, which has become a growing trend.

“We just need the green light to bring these healing tools above ground, and carry on what has been done for centuries: healing ourselves through our relationship with nature, lets start here in Oakland and be a beacon of hope and healing,” said Nicole Stewart of Decriminalize Nature Oakland — an activist group that led the effort to legalize entheogenic plants in the city.

The resolution stemmed from a movement at the state level to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms, which suffered a setback when a measure to accomplish that goal didn’t make it to California’s 2018 ballot. Activists are gathering signatures now to put a measure on the Oregon state ballot next year to legalize the medical use of psilocybin.

Part of the movement’s momentum comes from a study released by Johns Hopkins University last year that suggested psilocybin could be used to treat depression and anxiety and even help people quit smoking, according to the New York Times. Bestselling author and Berkeley resident Michael Pollan’s recent book, “How to Change Your Mind,” makes the case that psychedelic drugs can be effective therapy tools, especially for people trying to recover from drug addiction.

East Oakland physician Steve Lovato, at Tuesday’s meeting, pointed out that the Johns Hopkins study only recommends that the U.S. Food and Drug Association allow for more research into the substances, not that they be immediately allowed for people to use. Pollan, in a New York Times op-ed penned earlier this month, urged that more research is necessary before psychedelics are fully decriminalized.

“Access to mental health in the community is an issue, mental health and medical professionals in East Oakland are not calling for legalization of mushrooms as a solution,” Lovato said.

The resolution does not apply to synthetic drugs such as LSD or Ecstasy.

Councilman Loren Taylor, who expressed concern at a committee hearing prior to Tuesday’s meeting that the resolution may lead to adults and children using the plants unsafely, said that he sat down with police officials and advocates from Decriminalize Nature Oakland to come up with some amendments to the resolution that would discourage unsafe use. One of the amendments was a clause in the resolution saying that entheogens are not for everyone, and that clinicians caution people not to take them if they have personal or family history of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or if they are on certain medications. If someone has a condition like depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, “they would do well to get serious, professional help before using an entheogen.”

Another clause in the resolution urges people who don’t have experience with the substances to start with small doses, unless they are doing so under guidance of someone who has experience with them. The resolution also warns against using entheogens alone.

The amended resolution also clarifies that commercial sale or manufacturing entheogens remains illegal, as does possessing or distributing them at schools and driving under the influence of them.

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