psychedelic mushrooms
Hippies rejoice. (Image via Pixabay)

Oakland Decriminalizes the Recreational Use of Psychedelic Mushrooms

Oakland recently became the second city in the United States to decriminalize the use and possession of the substance.

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psychedelic mushrooms

Oakland recently became the second city in the United States to decriminalize the use and possession of the substance.

Great strides have been made in the recent fight to decriminalize psychedelics in the United States. On June 4, the Oakland City Council unanimously voted to decriminalize the use and possession of hallucinogens derived from plants or fungi. This action has caused quite the stir surrounding the advocacy of psychedelic mushrooms.

The resolution set a citywide policy to bring all of the police investigations surrounding hallucinogens to a screeching halt. The reasoning behind the measure lies in its history, as it is seen in many cultures as sacred and is known for its healing properties.

One of the most well-known hallucinogens out there, the decriminalization of psychedelic mushrooms came as a shock to many. Though it is still considered illegal and higher-priority federally, this has not deterred advocates for the legalization of the substance.

Surprisingly enough, Oakland is not the first city in the United States to decriminalize the drug.

Less than a month prior to Oakland, Denver was the first city in the United States to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms on May 8. The policy, titled Initiative 301, was passed after an extremely tight race that was originally predicted to lean in favor of the opposition. In the last few days of voting, the initiative was passed with a narrow 51% in favor.

For both of these cases, the goal is to redirect law enforcement resources away from the pursuit of nonviolent offenses. Studies have also shown that while the decriminalization of drugs still causes a rise of first-time users, the number of drug-related deaths drop significantly.

The theory behind this phenomenon is that by decriminalizing certain drugs, such as psychedelic mushrooms, the “fear of arrest” is eradicated. Those in desperate need of treatment for their drug abuse problems are finally enabled to seek help once the possibility of arrest is eliminated.

While that is all fine and dandy, there is still the issue of safety. It is difficult to find studies, if any at all, on the effects of psychedelic mushrooms. While the outwardly physical effects have mostly been identified, there is still the question of what it does to one’s body composition.

So, what exactly are psychedelic mushrooms? Commonly referred to as “shrooms,” these fungi belong to the Psilocybe genus. The name was coined after psilocybin and psilocin, the components present in shrooms that cause its users to experience hallucinations, more commonly known as “tripping.

That’s a lot of big words that mean little to nothing to the average person. In layman’s terms, shrooms (obviously) cause its users to trip. When tripping, it is normal to experience heightened emotions, distorted vision and an erratic sense of time. Many use the hallucinogen in search of a spiritual occurrence in which they “find themselves” or “learn the truth” of the world or universe.

Currently, according to the FDA, psychedelic mushrooms are a Schedule I drug. This means that they commonly have heightened potential for abuse and no medicinal value to the general population.

But this view has recently been challenged by advocates for the decriminalization and eventual legalization of psychedelic mushrooms. John Hopkins University called for the reclassification of the drug in 2018, suggesting it be moved to Schedule IV in order to do research on its medical uses.

Shrooms have been closely associated with the indigenous peoples of the Americas and some parts of Europe. They are known to have used the fungi for spiritual and medicinal purposes throughout history. This raises the question: Could shrooms potentially be used as a prescribed drug?

With little to no research conducted on the drug, it’s too soon to say. As we shift further toward exploring its potential benefits, it’s likely that even if it is not legalized for recreational use, it will soon be legalized for medicinal uses.

Moving forward, many cities — and even states — in the U.S. have shown interest in passing similar acts and initiatives. Its nonaddictive qualities, along with the increasingly large body of evidence backing its medicinal uses, makes the decriminalization of psychedelic mushrooms an easy decision for many government officials.

The city of Berkeley, California has recently expressed interest in becoming the third to decriminalize psychedelic substances. During the week of Sept. 9, the Berkeley City Council considered a measure that would forbid officials to use government funds to enforce the criminal penalties associated with hallucinogens.

Both Oregon and California have also seen efforts to push government officials to decriminalize, and eventually legalize, psychedelic mushrooms state-wide. State representatives have filed legislation to facilitate the study of the drug by medical researchers as well. One lawmaker in Iowa expressed interest in similar measures.

Spearheading the campaign to decriminalize psychedelics in California is Decriminalize Nature, a group dedicated to advocating for the use of natural drugs and hallucinogens. Their goal is to eventually play a part in the legalization of the recreational or medicinal use of psychedelics.

Decriminalize Nature’s mission is, “to improve human health and well-being by decriminalizing and expanding access to entheogenic plants and fungi through political and community organizing, education and advocacy.”

With this in mind, it is becoming increasingly apparent where this path leads. As more legislators and lawmakers across the country are made aware of the issue, they begin to adopt a similar view on the situation.

What does this mean for the future of America? The trend of social and political reform is unlikely to end here. It looks like similar policies are going to be adopted across the country. Maybe it’s time we all accept change and get a little more groovy?

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