Oakland became the first city to decriminalize a wide range of psychedelics last year—and now activists are announcing plans to pursue broader reform through a measure to legalize the sale and cultivation of entheogenic substances in the city.
Decriminalize Nature, the advocacy group behind the movement to enact decriminalization in cities across the country, will spearhead the project to pioneer a regulatory framework for substances such as psilocybin, ayahuasca and ibogaine. Councilmember Noel Gallo (D), who sponsored last year’s reform resolution focused on personal possession, will also provide guidance as activists work to draft language for a legalization measure that they hope to have prepared for Council consideration by September.
The news comes just one day after the Santa Cruz City Council unanimously approved a resolution to deprioritize enforcement of psychedelics criminalization similar to Oakland’s current policy.
When decriminalization came up for a vote in Oakland last year, Gallo told Marijuana Moment that it was just the beginning and that its passage meant lawmakers could “establish a process” to develop regulations similar to those that apply to marijuana. Some advocates initially bristled at that notion, however, pushing back on the prospect of allowing a retail model.
“This will be an unprecedented, comprehensive effort with clear intention: to use as many tools available, including leading scientific research and clinical research in psychedelics and entheogenic plant and fungi use, to heal our Oakland community,” Gallo said in a press release on Wednesday.
In this latest announcement, Decriminalize Nature stressed that measures will be taken to avoid creating another profit-driven, commercialized market similar to how the marijuana industry is rolling out in many legalized jurisdictions. Psychedelics legalization will be “community-driven, bottom-up, and focused on compassion and healing, first and foremost,” the group said.
“We don’t want to make the same mistakes we made with cannabis where we created scarcity and complexity that enabled run-away profiteering,” Decriminalize Nature Chair Carlos Plazola, who wrote an op-ed for Marijuana Moment on the subject last month, said. “So our approach with these sacred plants is to decriminalize throughout the U.S., and then in areas that have achieved this basic standard of equitable access for all people through decriminalization, to then pursue a regulatory framework emerging from compassion, with the clear intention of prioritizing healing above profits.”
Oakland would be a fitting location to shape a psychedelics regulatory model, as the city also approved a novel measure in 2004 that laid the groundwork for a tax-and-regulate system for adult-use cannabis that preceded those that were later enacted statewide in California and elsewhere.
The psychedelics legalization effort will start in earnest next month, with activists organizing a group of local “elders and spiritual leaders” to help guide the process of getting a thoughtful regulatory framework drafted for consideration by the City Council. The first draft of the legislation will be submitted to local lawmakers by September, Decriminalize Nature said.
While drug reform advocates remain steadfast in their push to legalize marijuana and implement social equity provisions, the psychedelics movement is quickly proving to be a formidable force in jurisdictions throughout the country. In the months since Denver became the first city to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms, activists in more than 100 cities are have launched efforts to decriminalize entheogenic substances, either legislatively or through ballot initiatives.
There are two statewide measures that organizers are working to put on ballots that would go further than decriminalization by enacting regulations. An organization called Decriminalize California is collecting signatures for an initiative to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for adult use. And in Oregon, efforts are underway to get a measure to legalize psilocybin for therapeutic purposes on the ballot. There’s also a separate campaign in that state to decriminalize possession of all drugs, with an emphasis on funding substance misuse treatment.
On the national stage, Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang said at an Iowa campaign stop last week that he wants to legalize psilocybin for military veterans.