As California gets set to launch its fully legal recreational marijuana market at some point early next year, a move that is expected to bring about the largest arena of legal pot commerce in the nation, the state’s voting public is getting the unique opportunity to decide whether or not to drag a psychedelic substance out of the pit of prohibition.
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced last week that a group hoping to legalize psilocybin—otherwise known as “magic mushrooms”—in a manner similar to beer and marijuana could now begin the signature-collecting phase of its campaign.
Supporters of the “California Psilocybin Legalization Initiative” (Initiative 17-0024) must secure 365,880 verified signatures by the end of April in order to qualify for a spot on the ballot in the 2018 election.
California’s Latest Adult Use Initiative: Legalize Psilocybin
The Golden State’s latest adult use initiative, which was introduced over the summer by Marina mayoral candidate Kevin Saunders, would eliminate the criminal penalties associated with the Schedule I controlled substance. In addition, the proposed change in the law would “exempt adults, 21 and over, from California health and safety codes which otherwise prohibit possession, sale, transport and cultivation of psilocybin.”
While the term “decriminalization” is prevalent throughout the language of the proposal, the law, if passed, would actually allow for the existence of a taxed and regulated psilocybin market.
This means California could become the first jurisdiction in the United States to allow people to purchase magic mushrooms in the same way they do other legal inebriants.
Although pulling the hallucinogenic drug out of the black market might not be as lucrative for California as its recreational pot industry, it would still provide a number of social and economic benefits, according to a fiscal impact statement published by the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO).
In a letter to California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the agency wrote that the legalization of psilocybin “would reduce costs to the state and local governments by reducing the number of psilocybin offenders incarcerated in state prison and county jail, as well as the number placed under community supervision (such as county probation). In addition, the measure would result in a reduction in state and local costs for the enforcement of psilocybin-related offenses and the handling of related criminal cases in the state court system.”
The report, which is signed by legislative analyst Mac Taylor and director of finance Michael Cohen, estimates that state and local governments would likely see annual revenues to the tune of “a couple million dollars” from the legalization of the psychedelic substance.
Legalize Psilocybin To Reduce Crime
Interestingly, some of the latest research shows that legalizing magic mushrooms could have a tremendous impact on the community, specifically in the reduction of violent crime.
Using data from the U.S. National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a team of researchers at the University of Alabama in Birmingham recently discovered evidence that the use of psychedelic drugs significantly decreases the chances of a person committing acts of violence.
The study, which was published in the latest Journal of Psychopharmacology, found that people who used psychedelic drugs at some point in their lifetime were around 18 percent less likely to be arrested for a violent crime.
Researchers explored nearly 500,000 respondents to come to this conclusion.
“These findings are consistent with a growing body of research suggesting classic psychedelics confer enduring psychological and prosocial benefits,” lead researcher Peter Hendricks of the University of Alabama in Birmingham, said in an interview with Science Alert. “Simply put, the positive effects associated with classic psychedelic use appear to be reliable. Given the costs of criminal behavior, the potential represented by this treatment paradigm is significant.”
Much like the attitude that once mocked advocates pushing for the legalization of marijuana, Saunders’ campaign to bring psychedelic mushrooms out of the underground has not been widely received.
In fact, the CPLI campaign has yet to garner any support from major players in the drug reform community.
In August, Tamar Todd, senior legal affairs director at the Drug Policy Alliance, which reportedly donated $4.5 million to help further marijuana legalization in California, told L.A. Weekly that the group was too “focused on the safe and just roll-out 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,” to even take a position on Saunders’ initiative.
Next Steps For The Campaign To Legalize Psilocybin
Unfortunately, without the proper support, mainly in the area of finance, it is going to be difficult for Saunders and his crew to collect the necessary signatures before the deadline.
In order to run a successful voter initiative, like Proposition 64, the more money the better. Reports show that it typically takes in upwards of $3 million just to collect enough voter petitions to secure a spot on the ballot. The cost increases leading up to the election. In short, without some friends with some seriously deep pockets,’ CPLI is likely dead in the water.
But Saunders, who told High Times that the campaign would be reaching out to power players in Hollywood and Silicon Valley, remains optimistic about the future of the initiative.
“We will get the required signatures and this will go straight to the voters,” Saunders said. “We are confident we can put together a coalition to push us over 51 percent. This is the hard part; the campaign will be the easy part.
“We expect this campaign to rely heavily on volunteers, those who are well versed in where to harvest these signatures,” Saunders added. “We plan to be very visible at this year’s Emerald Cup, on various college and university campuses, gay pride parades and Burning Man affiliated parties and get-togethers.”
If the initiative fails, it is not going to be due to a complete lack of public support.
A recent YouGov survey found that 63 percent of the American population now supports the concept of psilocybin (and other psychedelic substances) being used in modern medicine.
Still, it might be tricky for Saunders to get the California population to support the recreational use of shrooms, especially since marijuana is just now starting to enter the realm of social acceptance.