San Francisco lawmakers have unanimously approved a measure calling for the decriminalization of psychedelics like psilocybin and ayahuasca.
The Board of Supervisors approved the measure, sponsored by Supervisors Dean Preston (D) and Hillary Ronen (D), on Wednesday. While it doesn’t immediately enact changes to criminal justice policy in San Francisco, it urges police to deprioritize psychedelics as “amongst the lowest priority” for enforcement and requests that “City resources not be used for any investigation, detention, arrest, or prosecution arising out of alleged violations of state and federal law regarding the use of Entheogenic Plants listed on the Federally Controlled Substances Schedule 1 list.”
Decriminalize Nature San Francisco helped advance the resolution, which also implores city officials to “instruct” its state and federal lobbyists to push for psychedelics decriminalization in California and federally.
The whereas section of the measure talks about emerging research that shows entheogenic substances have therapeutic potential to treat a wide range of mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance misuse disorder.
It further notes that the “state legislature has already started the conversation around the decriminalization of personal possession of small amounts of seven psychedelic substances,” in the form of a bill from Sen. Scott Wiener (D) that passed the Senate and several Assembly committees before being significantly scaled back in a final panel and ultimately pulled by the sponsor.
“I am proud to work with Decrim Nature to put San Francisco on record in support of the decriminalization of psychedelics and entheogens,” Preston said in a press release. “San Francisco joins a growing list of cities and countries that are taking a fresh look at these plant-based medicines, following science and data, and destigmatizing their use and cultivation. Today’s unanimous vote is an exciting step forward.”
The resolution says that a copy of the measure must be transmitted to local police, the district attorney’s office, state lawmakers including Wiener, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) Alex Padilla (D-CA) and Gov. Gavin Newsom (D).
San Francisco officials have been bullish on drug policy reform, including promoting harm reduction services. After Newsom controversially vetoed a bill to create a safe drug consumption pilot program in the state last month, the mayor and city attorney signaled that San Francisco would push ahead with its plans to authorize the sites regardless.
Meanwhile, numerous cities across the U.S. have enacted psychedelics decriminalization, starting in Denver in 2019 and also expanding to California cities like Oakland and Santa Cruz. Other major cities that have enacted the reform include Detroit and Seattle.
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More recently, a coalition of activists in Aspen, Colorado started collecting signatures for a local measure to decriminalize entheogenic substances like psilocybin, ayahuasca and ibogaine.
The campaign manager of the historic Denver initiative is also spearheading the statewide legalization initiative, titled the “Natural Medicine Health Act.” The measure, which will appear on the November ballot, would legalize possession of certain psychedelics, establish a therapeutic model for supervised psilocybin treatment and provide a pathway for record sealing for prior convictions.
In March, California activists announced that they came up short on collecting enough signatures to qualify a measure to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for the state’s November ballot, though they aren’t giving up on a future election cycle bid.
Meanwhile, Georgia lawmakers discussed the therapeutic potential of psychedelics like psilocybin for serious mental health conditions at a hearing focused on military veterans last week.
Lawmakers on the panel discussed legislation enacted in Texas last year that requires the state to study the therapeutic potential of psychedelics.
The day after the Georgia committee held its psychedelics hearing last week, lawmakers in Missouri met to discuss possible solutions to the military veterans’ mental health and suicide crisis, with several people testifying about the possible therapeutic potential of psychedelics for the at-risk population.
Missouri Rep. Tony Lovasco (R) introduced a psychedelics reform bill for the 2022 session. It was addressed during a hearing in the House Health and Mental Health Policy Committee in March, but it did not advance.
Separately, a top federal health agency says it is actively “exploring” the possibility of creating a task force to investigate the therapeutic potential of certain psychedelics like psilocybin and MDMA in anticipation of federal approval of the substances for prescription use.
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