The Oakland City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution that calls on California state lawmakers to enact policies decriminalizing a wide range of psychedelics and allowing local jurisdictions to permit healing ceremonies where people could use entheogenic substances.
The vote is a product of activist-led efforts by the group Decriminalize Nature (DN), which has been pushing local legislators to expand upon the city’s current decriminalization policy that was enacted last year.
While the group introduced a 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 said that he plans to file a bill to decriminalize psychedelics across California when the legislature reconvenes in January.
The new proposal was presented before the Oakland City Council’s Rules and Legislation Committee earlier this month and has now been approved by the full body.
Under the local resolution, sponsored by Councilman Noel Gallo (D), the city will urge the state legislature to “decriminalize 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.”
The measure as introduced had included the phrase “decriminalize or legalize,” but Gallo moved to remove the legalize part just prior to the vote on Tuesday.
The measure 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 will further make it so city lobbyists would have to advocate for psychedelics reform in Sacramento.
Oakland was the first city in the U.S. to make a broad range of 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.
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.