It is distinctly possible that California voters could be the first in the nation to decide whether psychedelic mushrooms should be made legal in a manner similar to alcohol and marijuana.
Earlier last week, paperwork was filed with the state attorney general’s office asking to put the question of legal psilocybin (otherwise known as magic mushrooms) on the ballot in the 2018 election. The proposal, which was submitted by veteran cannabis advocate Kevin Saunders, would legalize the hallucinogen for adults 21 and over all across the Golden State.
“This initiative exempts adults, 21 and over, from criminal penalties and decriminalizes adult use of psilocybin,” the initiative reads. The would-be law modification also “exempts adults, 21 and over, from California health and safety codes which otherwise prohibit possession, sale, transport and cultivation of psilocybin.”
Saunders, who is also running a campaign for mayor in the town of Marina, which is located about 100 miles south of San Francisco, told the Sacramento Bee that people should no longer be subjected to criminal records for a drug that is gaining ground in the mainstream.
“What I want to do is take the shackles off. I want to have an adult conversation,” he told the news source. “Not only are the soccer moms high now, but some of them are taking mushrooms.”
To the outside world, Saunders’ mission to legitimize a mind-altering substance that the U.S. government believes is one of the most dangerous drugs in the world might sound ambitiously insane, especially considering that the nation is now just starting to warm up to the concept of legal weed.
But in actuality, Saunders is onto something.
Not only have researchers proven that psilocybin is safer than other drugs, like alcohol, there are a couple of clinical trials taking place right now that could eventually lead to the substance winning approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration—an achievement that not even the cannabis plant has yet managed to secure.
There is also some evidence that psilocybin is effective in the treatment of severe anxiety and addiction. German researchers recently concluded that, “these mushroom drugs may soon also be in use as pharmaceuticals that treat the existential anxiety of advanced-stage cancer patients, depression, and nicotine addiction,” reported Science Daily.
Strangely, however, the issue of whether to eliminate the criminal penalties associated with the possession of magic mushrooms has not attracted the immediate support of popular drug reform groups.
Tamar Todd, senior legal affairs director for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), recently told L.A. Weekly that while the DPA “agrees that no one should be arrested or incarcerated simply because they possess or use psilocybin or other drugs… there are many factors to consider when deciding whether to run or support a ballot measure in California.”
The organization said it does not yet have an opinion on California’s psilocybin initiative.
For now, the DPA says it is focused only on “the safe and just rollout of marijuana regulation and our work to reduce the number of people incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses or deported for entering drug treatment post-arrest, and to reduce the number of people who die of drug overdose in California,” according to a statement provided by Todd.
Nevertheless, there is some momentum building for legal psilocybin.
A recent YouGov survey found 63 percent of the population is in favor of the drug being used for psychedelic therapies.
But the fight to legalize magic mushrooms in California is still an uphill battle. Organizers with the campaign would need to collect 356,880 valid signatures in order to be allowed on the 2018 ballot.
As we have seen with marijuana legalization campaigns across the United States, the process of qualifying ballot measures is an expensive and time-consuming endeavor. So, the likelihood of the initiative going the distance without the help of influential organizations, like the DPA, or funding in the millions of dollars, is not good.
But then again, this was once the case for marijuana.
Now, over half the nation has a law on the books allowing the possession, cultivation and sale of the herb for medical and recreational purposes.
Although Saunder’s shrooms initiative may be ahead of its time, we have no doubt the issue will eventually receive the appropriate consideration.