The Oakland City Council will consider a resolution next week that calls on California state lawmakers to enact policies decriminalizing or legalizing a wide range of psychedelics and allowing local jurisdictions to permit healing ceremonies where people could use entheogenic substances.
Activists with Decriminalize Nature (DN) have been working with legislators to expand upon the city’s current decriminalization policy that was enacted last year.
While they unveiled a local measure in July to legalize healing ceremonies in Oakland where people could lawfully use psychedelics, they’ve decided for now to pursue a push for state-level legislative action after a senator announced that he plans to file a bill to decriminalize psychedelics across California when the legislature reconvenes in January.
The group presented the new resolution before the Oakland’s Rules and Legislation Committee last week.
State Sen. Scott Weiner’s (D) action “changed things completely here in Oakland relative to our work because, suddenly, our bigger battle became not here in Oakland, but statewide,” Carlos Plazola, chair of DN, told Marijuana Moment. “We suddenly found ourselves stepping into a much larger arena.”
Under the local resolution, sponsored by Councilman Noel Gallo (D), the city would urge the state legislature to “decriminalize or legalize the possession and use of entheogenic plants and fungi” and “allow local jurisdictions to authorize its citizens to engage in community-based healing ceremonies involving the use of entheogenic plants and fungi without risk of arrest and state prosecution.”
It also asks state lawmakers to “provide protections against criminal prosecution for local jurisdictions, their elected and appointed officials, practitioners and users operating in accordance with the Oakland Community Healing Initiative.” It would further make it so city lobbyists would have to advocate for psychedelics reform in Sacramento.
“This resolution really is our open leadership taking a stand for the most marginalized communities of really the world—but certainly here in California,” Plazola said.
The full Council will meet to discuss the new resolution on Tuesday. Meanwhile, DN recently held a meeting with activists and a staffer in Weiner’s office to talk about the need for this reform, as well as approving legislation to allow healing ceremonies statewide.
Oakland was the first city in the U.S. to make psychedelics like psilocybin and ayahuasca among the municipality’s lowest law enforcement priorities. But advocates quickly got to work to build on that reform, and they introduced guidelines on how to safely and effectively engage in healing ceremonies over the summer.
“There have been scientific and clinical studies that show Entheogenic Plants have been shown to benefit the health and well-being of individuals and communities with substance abuse, addiction, recidivism, trauma, post-traumatic stress symptoms, chronic depression, severe anxiety, end-of-life anxiety, grief, diabetes, cluster headaches, and other conditions are plaguing our community,” a memo about the new resolution states.
Across the bay in San Francisco, activists are pressing local officials to enact a measure deprioritizing the prosecution of people for entheogens.
Meanwhile, voters in Oregon approved an initiative in November that legalizes so-called magic mushrooms for therapeutic purposes. On the other side of the country, Washington, D.C. residents overwhelmingly accepted an initiative to decriminalize entheogenic substances.
Washington State activists are looking to pursue similar reforms legislatively and via the ballot next year.
Denver was the first in the country to decriminalize psilocybin alone last year via a ballot measure, sparking a nationwide psychedelics reform movement. There are now psychedelics decriminalization efforts underway in more than 100 cities.
The local and state reforms come amid renewed interested in research on the potential medical benefits of psychedelics.
The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies announced in August that it raised $30 million in donations—including from several notable business leaders outside the drug policy realm—that will enable it to complete a study on using MDMA to treat post-traumatic stress disorder.
The University of California at Berkeley announced in September that it is launching a new center dedicated to psychedelics research and education.