The Berkeley, California City Council has approved a resolution to deprioritize the enforcement of laws prohibiting psychedelics.
Members voted to adopt the measure on Tuesday evening as part of a consent calendar—just hours after a bill to legalize the possession and facilitated use of certain psychedelics like psilocybin and ayahuasca advanced through a state Assembly committee.
The local resolution, sponsored by Councilmember Sophie Hahn, was previously approved by the Council’s Health, Life Enrichment, Equity & Community Committee.
“Berkeley has long been a leader on progressive legislation when it comes to criminal justice and cannabis reform in particular,” Hahn said ahead of the vote. “Today’s resolution builds on that legacy.”
Overall, the proposal calls on police to scale back the enforcement of laws against all entheogenic substances, excluding peyote-derived mescaline.
It adds that “there are criminal justice concerns associated with investigating, arresting, and incarcerating people for personal use of entheogens/psychedelics, and it is important to balance criminal justice concerns with public health concerns when crafting just and responsible policy.”
Further, the resolution makes it the official policy of the city for local law enforcement to “de-emphasize the use of City funds and resources to assist in the enforcement of laws imposing criminal penalties for the possession of plant- or fungus biosynthesized psychedelic drugs for personal use and for the cultivation, processing, and preparation of psychedelic-drug-containing plants and fungi for personal use.”
Under the proposal, gifting, distributing, selling or administering the psychedelics would not be authorized.
The measure was amended prior to the vote to incorporate input from the City Attorney’s Office. There were several technical changes, as well as a revision clarifying that the reform does not authorize people to share or administer entheogenic plants and fungi to organizations and groups of people. It originally only said that people weren’t authorized to give away psychedelics to “individuals.”
“The City of Berkeley declares its support for a transparent, comprehensive public conversation about the potential to open access to psychedelic drugs in ways that might be safe, beneficial, ethical, and equitable, and urges the California State Legislature to take part in this conversation and consider passing legislation that addresses the relevant issues,” the resolution adds.
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The measure that the Council approved on Tuesday was modified from an earlier psychedelics reform proposal approved by the Berkeley Community Health Commission.
The resolution doesn’t explicitly reference SB 58, a bill from Sen. Scott Wiener (D) that passed the state Senate and is advancing at the committee level in the Assembly.
Wiener said last month that the proposal is up against a “challenging road” toward passage because of its unexpected referral to the Assembly Health Committee—but the bill overcame that obstacle on Tuesday when the panel voted to pass it along to the next committee.
SB 58 would legalize the “possession, preparation, obtaining, transfer, as specified, or transportation of” specific amounts of psilocybin, psilocyn, DMT, ibogaine and mescaline for personal or facilitated use. However, a recent amendment makes it so communal use could only be authorized after the state develops a regulatory framework for such activity.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/Workman.