Oakland City Council has voted to decriminalize psychedelics that come from plants and fungi, including magic mushrooms. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that law enforcement in the California town won’t prosecute people for possessing the substance, although commercial distribution and possession in schools will remain illegal. The resolution means that Oakland is the second US city to decriminalize the drug, after Initiative 301 passed in Denver last month.
The move was welcomed by almost 100 campaigners who’d attended the city council’s vote, of which many had spoken in support of the resolution. Its proponents argue that magic mushrooms, which contain the psychedelic psilocybin, can be used to treat depression, and that it can help end-of-life cancer patients deal with anxiety. However, the Oakland City Council resolution includes an amendment that clarifies that anyone suffering from depression or post-traumatic stress disorder should see a doctor before considering the use of psychedelics. Anecdotally, people also report that psychedelics like psilocybin can be taken in micro-doses to improve concentration and alertness.
Psilocybin is thought to pose a lower risk of addiction than other drugs, although it’s not entirely risk-free. Even if the drug doesn’t endanger your health directly, it can still create the risk of engaging in dangerous behavior while high, particularly around traffic. Oakland’s resolution specifically prohibits driving while under the influence of psilocybin.
The full impact of decriminalization in the US is unknown, particularly when it only applies to a single city. When the vote to decriminalize the drug took place in Denver, critics argued that decriminalization risked perpetuating the city’s “drug-friendly” reputation. After Portugal decriminalized all drugs back in 2007, drug-related deaths fell, but reported use among teens increased in the country according to a study published in 2014.