Following Denver's lead, Oakland may become the second US city to decriminalize magic mushrooms.
The push to remove criminal penalties from the possession and use of psilocybin (or 'magic') mushrooms and other natural psychedelics is gaining ground in Oakland. A resolution that would see the mushrooms decriminalized alongside substances like ayahuasca, cacti and iboga is currently making its way through Oakland City Council.
The resolution was introduced by Councilman Noel Gallo (D) who said he was brought around to psychedelic decriminalization after he learned about their potential as a treatment for a variety of mental health issues.
"We need all the help we can get to deal with the mental health issues that we have," Gallo told the San Fransisco Chronicle. "If I can bring it publicly and talk about the benefit and talk about [how it can] deal with the mental illnesses that we have in the city, why not?"
The resolution has started to gain support from other local lawmakers as well. Council President Rebecca Kaplan (D) said passing the resolution would be an important step towards repairing some of the damage done by a decades-long War on Drugs.
"I believe we need to continue to support efforts to help end mass incarceration and I recognize that the War on Drugs has been a racist, expensive, wasteful failure," Kaplan said. "I also believe there are strong public health reasons to support this change."
Local law enforcement official don't seem to be putting up much of a fight against the resolution either. Sgt. Ray Kelly said arrest rates for psychedelic drugs in Alameda County where Oakland resides is pretty insignificant anyway.
"On the scale of concerns about illicit drugs, they're not as high up there as meth and coke and heroin and fentanyl," Kelly said. "They're more down in the recreational drug use category."
Psychedelic drugs have been seeing a bit of a renaissance across the country as of late. Research interest has peaked recently, and scientists have begun studying them as possible alternatives to traditional medications.
The vast potential of psilocybin even received a nod from the FDA last year when they moved to fast track a research project looking at the drug as a depression treatment.
"The data are really impressive. We should be cautiously but enthusiastically pursuing these threads," said Matthew Johnson, an associate professor in psychiatry and behavior sciences at Johns Hopkins who conducted a study on how psychedelics might help people stop smoking. "We want to be aware of overexuberance, but at the same time, we have to avoid falling into a kind of dogmatic skepticism."
The resolution was passed by the city's public safe committee on Tuesday and it is expected to go before the full council as soon as June 4.