Activists in Oakland, California say they’ve secured a City Council sponsor for a resolution that would block the police department and other officials from participating “in the enforcement of laws imposing criminal penalties for the personal use and personal possession of” psychedelic drugs.
The measure would also instruct the city’s state and federal lobbyists to “work in support of decriminalizing” plant- and fungi-based entheogenic substances such as psilocybin, ayahuasca, ibogaine and cacti.
Decriminalize Nature, the campaign behind the resolution, has at this point met with the offices of four out of eight City Council members, with additional meetings scheduled for the coming weeks. Larry Norris, the campaign’s co-founder and steering committee member who helps run educational outreach, told Marijuana Moment in a phone interview that their resolution has generally been well-received and the group is hopeful it will be taken up for a vote as early as May.
“The way that we’re talking to the City Council members is really just talking about this as a community-based resolution,” Norris said. “We’re talking about the health and wellness possibilities, we’re talking about the medical possibilities, we’re talking about the spiritual possibilities.”
While Councilmember Noel Gallo (D) agreed to sponsor the resolution, according to Norris, it could also get a powerful cosponsor: Rebecca Kaplan (D), the president of the Council. A recent meeting with Kaplan’s chief of staff apparently went well, the activist said, with talks about possible cosponsorship set to continue.
Marijuana Moment reached out to the offices of Gallo and Kaplan for comment, but representatives were not immediately available.
The campaign was inspired in part by efforts underway in Denver and Oregon to reform laws around psilocybin mushrooms. Next week, Denver residents will vote on an initiative to decriminalize psilocybin, and activists in Oregon are collecting signatures to legalize the substance for medical use for the state’s 2020 ballot.
But Decriminalize Nature’s resolution goes beyond psilocybin, broadly covering all “entheogenic plants and plant-based compounds” that appear on the list of Schedule I drugs under the Controlled Substance Act. Norris said the group’s reasoning for including all of those substances is somewhat philosophical.
“We wanted to have a deeper conversation about nature,” he said. “With all of these general philosophical concepts in mind, we decided that rather than just do a one-off approach—which means 10, 20 years down the road, we’re finally getting to the next one or the next one—rather than take that longer approach, we’re already going to be bringing a new idea to people. Why don’t we do everything on Schedule I because, as far as I can see, they can all be valuable in different ways.”
Decriminalize Nature’s next steps will involve more educational outreach but, rather than have community members come to their events, the group will visit “different communities” to explore their interest and address their concerns.
If the campaign is successful, the group plans to help activists in other cities advance psychedelics reform, using their resolution as a model. While Decriminalize Nature activists were drafting the document, the group connected with organizers in places like Seattle, Los Angeles and Monterey who expressed interest in pursuing similar plans for their cities.
Check out the #DecriminalizeNature #Oakland resolution! If successful in Oakland we look forward to assisting other communities in bringing this resolution to their cities/counties/states nationwide. #Seattle #LosAngeles #SanDiego #Berkeley #Detroit https://t.co/69z9QY99Ua
— Decriminalize Nature (@DecrimNature) April 14, 2019
“It became clear pretty quickly that it wasn’t just an Oakland-based thing—even though it’s our beautiful Bay Area community—but that it expanded out and people were hungry from this new vision,” Norris said. “I think for most of us, our focus would be: let’s do it right in Oakland so we can become a model not just in how to do policy but how to build a successful policy.”
Down the line, the group hopes to work with California lawmakers on statewide decriminalization. The hope is that these city-level reform efforts will start the conversation and get people more familiar and comfortable with reforming psychedelics laws.
Read the key parts of Decriminalize Nature’s proposed Oakland resolution:
“WHEREAS, the City of Oakland wishes to declare its desire not to expend City resources in any investigation, detention, arrest, or prosecution arising out of alleged violations of state and federal law regarding the use of Entheogenic Plants; NOW THEREFORE BE IT
RESOLVED, That the Mayor and City Council hereby declare that it shall be the policy of the City of Oakland that no department, agency, board, commission, officer or employee of the city, including without limitation, Oakland Police Department personnel, shall use any city funds or resources to assist in the enforcement of laws imposing criminal penalties for the personal use and personal possession of Entheogenic Plants by adults; AND BE IT FURTHER
RESOLVED, That the Oakland City Council directs the City Administrator to instruct the City’s state and federal lobbyists to work in support of decriminalizing all Entheogenic Plants and plant-based compounds that are listed on the Federal Controlled Substances Schedule 1; AND BE IT FURTHER
RESOLVED That the Mayor and City Council hereby declare that it shall be the policy of the City of Oakland that the investigation and arrest of adult persons for planting, cultivating, purchasing, transporting, distributing, engaging in practices with, and/or possessing Entheogenic Plants or plant compounds on the Federal Schedule 1 list shall be amongst the lowest law enforcement priority for the City of Oakland; AND BE IT FURTHER
RESOLVED That the Mayor and City Council call upon the Alameda County District Attorney to cease prosecution of persons involved in the use of Entheogenic Plants or plant-based compounds on the Federal Schedule 1 List”
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/Mushroom Observer.