A flurry of activity in recent months has propelled psilocybin and other psychedelic drugs into the headlines.
The substances have been a topic of discussion on Capitol Hill, with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat, at the forefront of the movement.
Denver, Oakland Decriminalize
On June 7, Ocasio-Cortez filed legislation that would allow psilocybin, MDMA and other substances to be studied by scientists. The effort seeks to remove prohibitions on federal spending money going toward the study of substances listed as Schedule 1.
The following week, the House rejected the amendment by a 91-331 vote. Ultimately, the measure was defeated in a bipartisan manner.
While Congress remains opposed to amending psychedelic research, trailblazers in the cannabis movement are doing the same with psychedelics.
In May, Denver, Colorado made headlines by decriminalizing psilocybin, often referred to as magic mushrooms. Oakland, California was the next major city to do the same.
Larry Norris is a co-founder and board member of Decriminalize Nature Oakland (DNO), a key player in the city’s effort to decriminalize psychedelics.
The process began in mid-December 2018 and a resolution was finalized in January, Norris told Benzinga. The group held mobilization events to garner community support and educate the masses. The group then met with lawmakers.
On June 4, the measure moved to a final vote and received unanimous approval.
Now, DNO might help other cities follow suit.
“The success of DNO has had ripple effects throughout the U.S., and DNO has been contacted by interested parties in over 50 cities across 27 states who would like to replicate our approach,” Norris said.
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What Decriminalization Means
Chris Cahill is a practicing criminal defense attorney in Cartersville, Georgia, in addition to being a cannabis advocate for over a decade.
He spoke to the significance of decriminalization efforts extending into psychedelics in these cities — while noting potential legal drawbacks.
“The practical side of decriminalization is that ordinarily responsible users won’t become criminals if they happen to be found by law enforcement with their daily capsule of a minuscule amount of psychedelics, but folks who are abusing or using the drugs in an unsafe manner will likely naturally draw the attention of the police and may face the full force of the law,” Cahill said in an email.
State law often supersedes city law, the attorney said.
‘We May See Reform Move Quicker’
Psychedelics, much like cannabis, could become regulated by conflicting laws on the municipal, state and federal levels.
The space is a confusing one at the moment, said Amanda Ostrowitz, founder and CEO of RegsTechnology.
Psychedelics lack a regulatory framework, and lawmakers still must take many steps before any legalization efforts actually move forward beyond decriminalization, she said.
Ostrowitz predicts a similar situation as cannabis in decriminalized areas.
“Similar to how you rarely saw consumption tickets being handed out during cannabis decriminalization, I predict the psychedelics space will have the same low enforcement standards.”
Similar decriminalization efforts could occur in other cities, she said.
“We may see reform for psychedelics move quicker than cannabis did, and I foresee we will see other policy-progressive cities coming on board in the upcoming months and years.”
A Different Strategy Than Cannabis
Still, most advocates for decriminalization don’t appear keen on advancing psychedelics like cannabis.
DNO doesn’t want what they and many others consider sacred plants and fungi to be commodified, Norris said.
“What we have learned from cannabis is that sacred plants and fungi should not be in a tug-of-war between taxes and corporations. The resolution specifically states there will be no commercial sales, and we are looking to eventually support the collective model and home grows where individuals can freely trade with their community.”
Norris said he hopes DNO’s efforts and efforts by others in the movement empower people and motivate them to create change using the democratic process.
Public domain photo via Wikimedia.
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