Berkeley Decriminalizes Psilocybin, Ayahuasca

Major psychedelic reform is coming to Northern California.
Berkeley
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City officials in Berkeley, California have reportedly moved to decriminalize both psilocybin mushrooms and ayahuasca.

According to Psychedelic Spotlight, the city council there “unanimously” approved a measure to “officially deprioritize arrests for possession and use of psilocybin and ayahuasca…creating a new paradigm as dozens of cities across the United States move to recognize these naturally-occurring compounds’ mental health potential.”

SFGATE reported last week that the city council was slated to vote on the measure at Tuesday’s meeting.

The road to this psychedelic drug reform effort began in November, when the Berkeley City Council said that it would consider the measure.

The original resolution sought to decriminalize a host of psychedelics; along with psilocybin and ayahuasca, it also would have applied to LSD.

The measure that was ultimately approved on Tuesday was titled: “Resolution Supporting Entheogenic Plant Practices and Declaring that the Investigation and Arrest of Individuals Involved with the Adult Use of Entheogenic Plants on the Federal Schedule 1 List Be Amongst the Lowest Priority for the City of Berkeley.” 

It states that “the City of Berkeley 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,” and declares “that it shall be the policy of the City of Berkeley that no department, agency, board, commission, officer or employee of the city, including without limitation, Berkeley Police Department personnel, shall use any city funds or resources to assist in the enforcement of laws imposing criminal penalties for the use and possession of Entheogenic Plants by adults of at least 21 years of age.”

“For the purposes of this resolution, Entheogenic Plants are defined as plants and natural sources such as mushrooms, cacti, iboga containing plants and/or extracted combinations of plants similar to ayahuasca; and limited to those containing the following types of compounds: indole amines, tryptamines, phenethylamines,” the resolution continues.

The measure was pushed by a grassroots group called Bay Staters for Natural Medicine, which “led the effort to decriminalize six Massachusetts communities including Cambridge and Salem,” according to the outlet.

“Living in Berkeley, I tried psilocybin mushrooms for the first time with trusted friends. These plant medicines helped me work through trauma and open my heart to other people for the first time,” James Davis, cofounder of Bay Staters for Natural Medicine, told Psychedelic Spotlight. “Even so, this measure strikes the right balance by acknowledging that this should be something people research cautiously for their own wellbeing. Not something that should be sold and traded like candy, as has unfortunately happened in Oakland, nor commercialized for massive profits like in Oregon and Colorado.”

While this reform effort launched in earnest back in the fall, SFGATE notes that “Berkeley has been considering psychedelic reform since at least 2019, but the measure stalled during the COVID-19 pandemic because of disagreements over how to handle synthetic psychedelics.”

“Cities across the country have moved to reduce criminal penalties for using and distributing psychedelic drugs in recent years, as advocates argue that criminalization of drugs is not an effective way to regulate these substances,” the outlet reported. “The Bay Area has been a leader in the psychedelic reform movement, with Oakland, San Francisco and Santa Cruz passing similar measures that make possession of psychedelics a lower priority for law enforcement.”

Berkeley has been in the vanguard of other drug reform efforts, with the city council voting in 2020 to allow cannabis consumption lounges and marijuana delivery.

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