Oakland becomes 2nd U.S. city to decriminalize 'magic mushrooms'

Nicholas Sakelaris
Magic mushrooms have a hallucinogenic effect similar to that of LSD. File Photo by Shots Studio/Shutterstock.
"Magic mushrooms" have a hallucinogenic effect similar to that of LSD. File Photo by Shots Studio/Shutterstock.

June 5 (UPI) -- Oakland, Calif., passed a resolution late Tuesday that makes the city the second in the United States to decriminalize "magic mushrooms," a hallucinogenic substance often compared to LSD.

The resolution applies to plant or fungi-based drugs, not synthetics like LSD or ecstasy. As a result, police will no longer investigate or prosecute possession of the fungal substance.


"I don't have words, I could cry," said Decriminalize Nature Oakland co-founder Nicolle Greenheart, an advocate for decriminalization. "I'm thrilled that our communities will now have access to the healing medicines and we can start working on healing our communities."

Advocates said the move frees law enforcement to focus on higher priorities.

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Oakland is the second U.S. city to decriminalize mushrooms in the past month. Denver did the same May 8.

Oakland City Councilman Noel Gallo said Greenheart's group approached him to argue for the benefits of natural psychedelics.

"My grandmother took care of us," Gallo said. "She didn't go to Walgreens to heal us spiritually and physically, she did it out of plants we use as Native Americans."

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Psilocybin mushrooms are still not authorized for commercial sale or manufacturing and they cannot be distributed in schools. Driving under the influence is also illegal, and the resolution also stresses that potential users should first see a doctor.


Councilman Loren Taylor worked with the Oakland Police Department to add certain amendments to the measure.

After the vote, a crowd of more than 100 people, many with bright green signs that read "Decriminalize Nature," cheered. Dozens of supporters said mushrooms have helped treat their depression.

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Many Native American tribes use hallucinogenic plants for rituals under the direction of shamans and elders. Advocates want to start a national conversation on legalizing plant-based drugs.

"It's the plants that are going to bring us back to sanity," said Susana Eager Valadez, director of the Huichol Center for Cultural Survival and Traditional Arts. "We've got to listen to their message and we've got to live reciprocally with nature and restore the natural order."

Decriminalized or not, magic mushrooms, still have their critics.

"Indigenous people use mushrooms in controlled rituals, not recreationally," Oakland physician Michael Clarendon said. "The most responsible course for the city council would be to put this on hold to see what happens in Denver and what the response is there."

Oregon will consider a referendum to decriminalize mushrooms next year, and an Iowa lawmaker is promoting a similar bill.

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