Berkeley, California, Officials Pass Psychedelic Decriminalization Resolution Amid Pushback From Reform Advocates

Berkeley, California, officials have tabled a proposal to decriminalize certain psychedelics, including synthetic ones like LSD, rather than focus more strictly on “natural” entheogenic plants and mushrooms, as has been the case with similar measures passed in other cities.

The Berkeley Community Health Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the resolution, though some advocates oppose particular provisions.

The measure, which includes only LSD and excludes peyote and ibogaine from the list of covered substances, will next go before the City Council for consideration.

At Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners made some changes to the proposal before approving it, which was based on a fundamental reshaping of the legislation from its form introduced in 2019, but the most recent changes have yet to be released.

One of the main arguments of the defenders who pressed for the version presented refers to the omission of the commission of the provisions that would have deprived priority of the application against gifts and the exchange of psychedelics between adults of the revised measure.

City officials said in an accompanying report that the decision to leave out those components was related to concerns about the inadvertent creation of an environment for an illicit gray market, which commissioners say occurred in neighboring Oakland after that city decriminalize psychedelics.

“In these gray markets, we see enterprising entrepreneurs opening businesses such as delivery services (advertised with flyers and billboards), in-store dispensaries, pop-ups and outdoor market stalls, sometimes asking for ‘suggested donations’ and sometimes without bother with everything under the pretense that they are simply ‘giving away’ the substances,” the report says.

The resolution, as filed with the commission, calls on the local government to de-prioritize “enforcement of laws that impose criminal penalties for possession of psychedelic drugs for personal use (with the exception of peyote), and laws that they impose penal sanctions for cultivation”. , processing and preparation of psychedelic-containing plants and mushrooms for personal use (with the exception of peyote)”.

It also says that Berkeley should work with outside partners to “provide psychedelic harm reduction resources, education, and support to the Berkeley community.”

A Berkeley City Council committee moved forward on decriminalizing psychedelics in 2019, referring it to the health-focused commission. But while that measure was initially drafted by Oakland-based Decriminalize Nature, the organization has since voiced opposition to the commission’s revised proposal.

“An essential part of this resolution directs the city manager to work with outside organizations…to provide accurate, evidence-based, and widely accessible psychedelic education, harm reduction, and other support resources to the community of Berkeley”, a report on the resolution says. “The goal here is to help people make informed and responsible decisions about their use of psychedelics and, if they choose to use them, to help them do so in the safest and most beneficial way possible.”

The text of the resolution states that “it shall be the policy of the City of Berkeley that no department, agency, board, commission, official or employee of the city, including, but not limited to, the personnel of the Berkeley Police Department, use funds from the city ​​or resources to help enforce laws that impose criminal penalties for possession of psychedelic drugs for personal use, or laws that impose criminal penalties for growing, processing, and preparing plants and mushrooms containing psychedelic drugs for personal use.”

That’s similar to previous psychedelic reform measures that have advanced in localities across the country, but what makes this proposal different is that it calls for deprioritizing synthetic psychedelic LSD, which technically would not constitute an “entheogenic” substance. .

It also explicitly excludes peyote from the list, reflecting activists’ interest in preventing the over-exploitation of an environmentally threatened plant-based medicine used by indigenous communities.

That said, the measure states that local legislators should consider future reforms that de-prioritize the “enforcement of laws that impose criminal penalties for the possession of MDMA, ketamine, ibogaine, and other adjacent psychedelic compounds for personal use.”

The resolution goes on to say that “the City of Berkeley urges other local jurisdictions to pass proposals that would establish psychedelic education, harm reduction, and support scaffolds for their communities, create policies to collect public health data on psychedelic drug use within their communities, and de-prioritize the enforcement of laws that impose criminal penalties for possession of psychedelic drugs (except Peyote) for personal use, and for the cultivation, processing, and preparation of psychedelic-containing plants and mushrooms (except Peyote) for personal use”.

This local commission vote in Berkeley comes amid a whirlwind of psychedelic policy development in the US, including a statewide vote in Colorado to legalize possession of certain entheogens this month.

The Berkeley commission’s approval of the reform measure also follows a recent development in neighboring San Francisco, where lawmakers unanimously approved a measure calling for the decriminalization of psychedelics such as psilocybin and ayahuasca in September.

Oakland, another city in the region, was one of the first US cities to decriminalize psychedelics in 2019.

The California Senate passed a bill to legalize the possession of psychedelics in California over the summer, but it stalled in the Assembly and was eventually withdrawn by the sponsor, Sen. Scott Weiner (D).

Meanwhile, at the congressional level, Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rand Paul (R-KY) recently introduced a bill that would require the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to transfer innovative therapies like psilocybin and MDMA from Schedules I to II, while removing barriers to strictly controlled substance research.

“This bill reduces these unreasonably onerous rules and regulations that delay or prevent researchers from studying, and patients from accessing, this entire class of potential drugs,” said the senator, who posted a video late last month promoting similarly the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics. .

The bill was introduced in the same week that bipartisan House lawmakers announced the formation of a congressional psychedelics committee aimed at promoting the development of new treatments derived from currently controlled entheogenic substances.

Booker and Paul previously introduced separate legislation in July to clarify that federal “Right to Try” (RTT) laws provide seriously ill patients with access to Schedule I drugs, including marijuana and certain psychedelics.

Booker said last month that the intent of that bill was to “open up more avenues to take drugs that are now prohibited and make them accessible, especially for people who are suffering.”

The previous bill would make a technical amendment to the text of the existing statute, but the main goal is to clarify that the RTT policy signed into law by former President Donald Trump already means that patients with terminal health conditions can obtain and use investigational drugs that have undergone clinical trials, even if they are Schedule I controlled substances.

Advocates have been encouraged by the growing interest in psychedelic policy and scientific issues within Congress.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) recently told Marijuana Moment that he “absolutely” sees parallels between the moves to reform the laws on psychedelics and marijuana. He also accurately predicted that Colorado voters would approve the psychedelic legalization initiative on the ballot this month.

Additionally, a pair of bipartisan legislators—Reps. Lou Correa (D-CA) and Jack Bergman (R-MI) announced this month that they have formed a congressional caucus, the first of its kind, dedicated to psychedelic therapy.

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Photographic elements courtesy of carlosemmaskype and Apollo.

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