Eureka, CA Decriminalizes Psychedelic Plant Medicines

Humboldt County got a little bit trippier last week when the Eureka City Council approved a measure decriminalizing entheogenic plant medicines and fungi such as psilocybin mushrooms within the Eureka city limits.

Eureka, CA, has passed a resolution decriminalizing entheogens and psychedelic plant medicines, making it the sixth California city to do so and the second such city in Humboldt County.

The Eureka City Council unanimously approved an initiative last week to decriminalize plant medicines such as psilocybin mushrooms within city limits. The announcement came less than two weeks after CA Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed an initiative which would have decriminalized psychedelics statewide. The City of Arcata, just a few miles to the north, voted to decriminalize in 2021 thanks to efforts by a group who also provided the language used in the Eureka resolution, Decriminalize Nature Humboldt.

According to an article in the Lost Coast Outpost, the resolution was passed without much trouble from the council, though a particular phrase was removed from the language of the bill. The council voted to remove language which seemed to endorse entheogenic plants’ ability to “catalyze profound experiences of personal and spiritual growth.” Not for nothing, but one of recently deceased Johns Hopkins professor Roland Griffiths’ first studies on psilocybin in 2006 was on psilocybin’s ability to induce mystical and spiritual experiences in the user. Much of Griffiths’ later work at Johns Hopkins has been referenced in similar legislative discussions surrounding the legality of psychedelics.

Other than the removal of the aforementioned phrase, the resolution was passed without much protest from the rest of the council members.There were some concerns voiced by local law enforcement representatives, mirroring Gov. Newsom’s concerns about potentially unforeseen consequences to the resolution. City Manager Miles Slattery, however, pointed out that he had consulted with the Arcata Police Department who reported no serious issues to him after just over two years of psychedelic decriminalization. He also pointed out that the City of Eureka only saw five cases of arrests related to entheogens in the previous year and almost every case was related to something more serious such as domestic violence. 

Councilmember Scott Bauer also voiced concerns over friends who had succumbed to bad bouts with Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, commonly known as LSD or acid. Councilmember Bauer said many of these friends were “gone” from these trips while also expressing concern over the purported possibility of such substances to inhibit child brain development, though he ultimately voted to pass the measure.

Hundreds of letters from concerned citizens were reportedly submitted to the council for consideration and dozens of members of the community showed up in person at the council meeting to speak about their personal experiences with psychedelics. They attested to ways in which they could foresee entheogenic plant medicines bringing net positives to both their own personal lives and to the collective good of a county awash with an inordinate amount of mental health and substance abuse disorders.

“What we genuinely need as human beings in this chaotic world is a helping hand, and psychedelics — from a nurse perspective, from a humanistic perspective, from my own perspective — psychedelics lend a hand that can hold you and guide you into a good direction, as long as you have the foundation built,” said Randee Litten, a nurse in the City of Eureka who co-founded a local ketamine treatment center. “I know that’s the concern, but I can tell you that we’ve been doing it for a year and a half, and I can’t even tell you how many community members we have helped. And it’s the reason that I’m still here, because I love this community and I have never in my entire career felt like I am doing so much good for this community until we discovered how well psychedelics can help human beings. … I finally feel alive again, like we’re doing something good for our community.”

Councilmember G. Mario Fernandez offered words of reassurance that the measures taken by the City of Eureka would, unequivocally not be reflective of Timothy Leary-esque sentiments from the chaotic psychedelic boom of the 1960’s.

“This isn’t a call to ‘turn on, tune in and drop out,’” Fernandez said. “Instead it would be to allow for folks who do take these substances for healing to reach out to medical and mental health professionals — or law enforcement, if things go towards a more negative experience — without any fear of reprisal.”

A local teacher, Rachel Riggs, told the council that she believes psychedelics can provide unparalleled healing in a community with an elevated rate of adverse childhood experiences.

“Entheogens are anti-addictive [and are] among the safest substances being studied in the treatment of addiction and mental health problems,” Riggs said. “There are very few side effects, especially when under the guidance of a therapist or with proper education.”

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