Oakland decriminalized "magic mushrooms" on Tuesday, becoming the second city in the U.S. to do so. The Oakland City Council voted unanimously to decriminalize adult use and possession of "magic mushrooms" and other psychoactive plants and fungi, The Associated Press reported.
The vote makes the investigation and arrest of adults who grow, possess and use the substances as one of the lowest priorities for police.
Last month, Denver voters approved the legalization of psychedelic mushrooms in the city. It was an unprecedented move in the U.S., which came to fruition after the Denver Psilocybin Mushroom Decriminalization Initiative gathered enough signatures for the question to be added to the election ballot. A similar organization, Decriminalize Nature Oakland, campaigned for the measure to be passed in their city.
A string of people testified in Oakland on Tuesday, sharing how the psychedelics helped them overcome depression, PTSD and even drug addiction, the AP reported. One man said the use of plants saved his life. "I don't how to describe it other than miraculous," said the Oakland resident, who described himself as a heroin addict.
Some speakers at Tuesday's hearing said substances like ayahuasca and peyote are traditional plant-based medicines and argued that hallucinogens can provide spiritual healing. Democratic Councilmember Noel Gallo introduced the resolution. The lawmaker said decriminalizing the substances would allow Oakland police to focus on serious crimes.
Councilmember Loren Taylor added amendments to the resolution that say the substances "are not for everyone." They recommended that people with PTSD or major depression should seek professional help before using them. They also advice people to use them with a friend present.
The city administrator will closely watch the effects of the decriminalization for a year and provide the council an assessment of the community impact. Gallo said lawmakers will have to establish rules and regulations to determine how they can be legalized and what the associated risks are.
Gallow said entheogenic were commonly used to treat ailments in his house growing up. "Growing up in the Mexican community, this was our cure," Gallo said, the AP reported. "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."
While "magic mushrooms" remain illegal for most of the country, others have spoken out about their healing powers. The drug can quickly and effectively help treat anxiety and depression in cancer patients, an effect that may last for months, two small studies found.
The 2016 studies were preliminary, and experts said more definitive research must be done on the effects of the substance, called psilocybin. The leaders of the two studies, Dr. Stephen Ross of New York University and Roland Griffiths of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, said nobody should try the substances on their own, which would be risky.