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Oakland Becomes Second City to Decriminalize "Magic Mushrooms" Despite Federal Prohibition

Published: June 5, 2019
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OAKLAND, Calif. (June 5, 2019) – Yesterday, Oakland became the second U.S. city to decriminalize psilocybin despite federal prohibition. Passage of the resolution takes a first step toward nullifying federal prohibition in practice and effect.

 

The Oakland city council voted unanimously to decriminalize the adult use and possession of “magic mushrooms” containing psilocybin along with other entheogenic, or psychoactive, plants and fungi.

Last month, Denver residents decriminalized psilocybin in a referendum.

Provisions in the Oakland law are similar to those passed in Denver. It makes the investigation and arrest of adults who grow, possess, use or distribute mushrooms one of the lowest law enforcement priorities. Significantly, no city funds can be used to enforce laws criminalizing psilocybin. This includes the enforcement of state and federal laws.

Psilocybin is a hallucinogenic compound found in certain mushrooms. A number of studies have shown psilocybin to be effective in the treatment of depression, PTSD, chronic pain and addiction. For instance, a Johns Hopkins study found that “psilocybin produces substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer.”

According to NBC news, “a string of speakers testified that psychedelics helped them overcome depression, drug addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder.”

Despite the move to decriminalize psilocybin and its promising medical uses, the federal government maintains a total ban on the substance.

LEGALITY

Under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970, the federal government maintains complete prohibition of psilocybin. Of course, the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to ban or regulate such substances within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.

The city council’s action will effectively end city enforcement of laws prohibiting the possession of psilocybin in Oakland. As we’ve seen with marijuana and hemp, when states and localities stop enforcing laws banning a substance, the federal government finds it virtually impossible to maintain prohibition. For instance, FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By curtailing or ending state prohibition, states sweep part of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.

Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly annual budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution either. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state and local assistance, and the same will likely hold true with psilocybin.

Passage of this resolution in Oakland takes the very first step toward nullifying psilocybin prohibition in practice and effect.

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