Oakland would become the second U.S. city to decriminalize magic mushrooms under a proposal before the City Council on Tuesday.
The resolution would decriminalize the adult use and possession of magic mushrooms and other entheogenic, or psychoactive, plants and fungi. Denver voters in May approved a similar measure for people 21 and older.
Supporters say entheogenic plants have been used to treat depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
"Entheogenic plants and fungi are tremendous for helping to enable healing, particularly for folks who have experienced trauma in their lives," said Carlos Plazola, chair of the advocacy group Decriminalize Nature Oakland. "These plants are being recommended pretty extensively undercover, underground, by doctors and therapists."
Oakland's proposed resolution would make the investigation and arrest of adults who grow, possess, use or distribute entheogenic plants, including magic mushrooms, ayahuasca and peyote, one of the lowest priorities for police. No city funds could be used to enforce laws criminalizing the substances, and the Alameda County District Attorney would stop prosecuting people who have been apprehended for use or possession.
Councilmember Noel Gallo, who introduced the resolution, said decriminalizing such plants would enable Oakland police to focus on serious crime.
The Oakland Police Department did not respond to emailed messages from the Associated Press seeking comment. Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Teresa Drenick declined to comment.
Still, magic mushrooms would remain illegal under both federal and state laws. Entheogenic substances are considered Schedule 1 drugs under the federal Controlled Substances Act, which categorizes drugs that have potential for abuse and no medical value.
Skeptics have expressed qualms about the resolution, including Councilmember Loren Taylor. The Mercury News reported that Taylor had raised concerns about unsafe use, especially in schools. In an emailed statement, Taylor said it's important that law enforcement and other community leaders are included in any talks to think through "all possible implications" of the resolution.
To address such concerns, Gallo said, lawmakers would have to establish rules and regulations about the use of such substances, including what exactly can be used, how to use them and what associated risks are.
Entheogenic plants have long been used in religious and cultural contexts. Gallo remembers his grandmother treating his family members with plants, including entheogenic ones, for a variety of ailments.
"Growing up in the Mexican community, this was our cure," Gallo said. Hemp oils, mushrooms and yerba buenas — an aromatic plant known for its medicinal properties — "that was our Walgreens. We didn't have a Walgreens. We didn't have a way to pay for any drugs. These are plants we have known for thousands of years in our community and that we continue to use."
Tuesday's vote would be the final on the measure. The council's public safety committee advanced it last week.