SANTA CRUZ (KPIX) -- The Santa Cruz City Council is moving forward with plans to decriminalize the use of psychedelic mushrooms and voted unanimously to advance the proposal to the Public Safety Committee for further review.
The resolution, sponsored by vice mayor Justin Cummings, proposes "that the investigation and arrest of individuals involved with the adult possession, use, or cultivation of psychoactive plants and fungi listed on the Federal Schedule 1 list for personal adult use and clinical research be among the lowest priorities for the city of Santa Cruz."
At Tuesday's meeting, council members heard from a range of speakers, the majority of whom were in support of the resolution and had used the psychedelic plants in the past.
"I've suffered from PTSD, severe anxiety and depression for many years. But the reason I'm still here today is because I got to try psilocybin two years ago," said Daisy Orozco, who said she was an Air Force veteran.
"At the time, I was planning to end my life just a few months later but this experience showed me how grateful I should be and how beautiful life truly is," said Jackie, a UC Santa Cruz student and a representative of Students for Sensible Drug Policy.
"There's also some fascinating research coming out about how it could increase neuro-plasticity and neurogenesis in the brain," said Dr. Alli Feduccia, with Multidisciplinary Association For Psychedelic Studies.
The Public Safety Committee will take up the issue Dec. 3. Denver passed a similar resolution in May, and Oakland in June. If passed, Santa Cruz would be the third city in the country to do so.
Mayor Martine Watkins said she would reserve judgment until after hearing committee presents its findings.
"But, given what I've seen, it seems to me that it's been informed by our law enforcement and will likely be adopted," said Watkins.
By going to the Public Safety Committee, "it makes for a more informed decision and allows the community to weigh in," said Watkins.
"I think the message that I heard from the community groups that were there, was how do you ensure that those who are finding medical healing benefits from these substances are able to use them in a way without criminalization, particularly those who have served in our armed forces or have experienced some PTSD."
Police chief Andy Mills said the resolution would not significantly change much of the department's operations, since calls involving mushrooms are rare and psychedelics are already a low priority.
Under the resolution, officers would not proactively pursue such cases.
"It doesn't mean we won't deal with it. If we do run into somebody, whether it's under the influence or a traffic stop that has mushrooms or a search warrant that somebody else needs our help with, then we will absolutely take necessary enforcement actions," said Mills. "So this gives us the authority to make it our lowest priority. But again, that authority can be boosted based on the circumstances."
"Certainly there's going to be people who use it recreationally and, you know, that's up to them. But I have met many people who treated their own anxieties, PTSD, end-of-life anxiety," said Athonia Cappelli, with Decriminialize Plants, one of the community activists pushing for the passage of the resolution.
"It causes me some concern but I do understand the need to move forward for some people." said Mills, "Things change. And sometimes it's for the better."
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