“What the telescope did for our understanding of the cosmos, what the microscope did for our understanding of cells, skillful, responsible usage of psychedelics can do for our understanding of the psyche.”Stan Grof
Earlier this year in May, Denver, Colorado became the first city in the United States to allow the use of psilocybin mushrooms. On Tuesday, June 4, 2019 the city of Oakland, California went even further. The Oakland City Council voted unanimously on a resolution to bar police from enforcing laws on the books that banned the use of psychoactive plants such as psilocybin mushrooms, peyote, ibogaine, ayahuasca, and others. In short, Oakland is the first city in the United States to decriminalize all naturally occurring psychedelic plants. The campaign conducted to push for decriminalization, and eventually legalization, of entheogenic plants was largely spear-headed by the activist group Decriminalize Nature Oakland.
On June 4, dozens of supporters of the resolution came to the city council meeting and testified to the benefits of using entheogenic plants in order to treat their depression, addiction, PTSD, or other issues that continue to go unresolved with traditional treatment. Some psychiatrists were there to note that the resolution would allow them to use these plants in their practice, which has been and continues to be a growing and promising trend in the profession.
Council member Noel Gallo, who introduced the resolution, said decriminalizing such plants would enable Oakland police to focus on serious crime. “Growing up in the Mexican community, this was our cure…” Gallo said. “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.”
Ayahuasca is an entheogenic brew made out of various plants that has been used by shamans and tribal peoples around the Amazon basin for thousands of years. It is only right that we recognize the long history that these psychoactive plants have had with the evolution of human cultures around the world. Nature should never have been criminalized in the first place, which is why this work to undo the damage we have done to ourselves is so important.
The War on Drugs has claimed countless lives since its inception under the Nixon administration. Its genesis was one of both political and economic means. Predominantly, it was created to disenfranchise minority voters. Thankfully, people across the country are realizing that the propaganda of the War on Drugs has clouded the understanding of psychedelics. The current political rhetoric simply does not align with the information we have from scientific research and the historical use of these psychoactive plants in cultural and spiritual practices.
For instance, activists in Oregon are working now to gather signatures to put a measure to legalize the medical use of psilocybin mushrooms on the state ballot in 2020. In 2018 the California Psilocybin Mushroom Decriminalization Initiative did not receive enough signatures to appear on the ballot in November. However, with the victories for the city of Denver in May and Oakland in June of this year, the group plans to renew their efforts for a statewide initiative in 2020.
Support for the decriminalization and even legalization of some psychoactive plants can be found on both sides of the political spectrum. In Iowa, Republican lawmaker Jeff Shipley recently proposed a measure that would allow for the rescheduling of ibogaine, psilocybin, and MDMA for medical purposes. He has also proposed another bill that would remove psilocybin and psilocyn from the list of schedule I drugs.
A study published in May of 2018 found that MDMA-assisted psychotherapy greatly helped to reduce PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) symptoms among military veterans, firefighters, and police officers. To quote the findings of the study itself, “Active doses (75 mg and 125 mg) of MDMA with adjunctive psychotherapy in a controlled setting were effective and well tolerated in reducing PTSD symptoms in veterans and first responders.”
This study, along with many others, was provided funding by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). Currently some of the research being done at MAPS includes MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy, Medical Marijuana in the treatment of symptoms of PTSD, LSD-Assisted Psychotherapy, Ibogaine-Assisted Treatment, and Ayahuasca-Assisted Therapy for drug addiction and PTSD just to name a few. If you would like to make a donation to MAPS in order to fund psychedelic research, public education, or harm reduction initiatives you can find their link here.