In a decision reached unanimously, Berkeley City Council has advanced towards the legalisation of certain psychedelics within city borders, marking a noteworthy stride in the ongoing nationwide campaign for decriminalisation.
The law enacted this week gives precedence to the personal usage of psychedelics originating from plants or fungi, including psilocybin mushrooms, whilst exempting synthetic substances like LSD and MDMA.
The resolution, put forth by Councillor Sophie Hahn, intends to deprioritise the enforcement of state and federal laws against these substances, effectively reducing the legal perils faced by users.
Although these substances continue to be controlled at the federal level, the city’s resolution to abstain from enforcing their prohibition could have far-reaching effects, particularly for those examining the therapeutic potential of these drugs.
Hahn’s legislation excludes the sharing, selling, or distribution of these substances, adhering to a harm reduction philosophy comparable to needle exchanges.
Consequently, the resolution seeks to avert a grey market like the one that sprouted in Oakland following similar decriminalisation measures.
The final iteration of the law distinctly omits peyote or mescaline derived from peyote, owing to sustainability and poaching apprehensions raised by the National Council of Native American Churches and the Indigenous Peyote Conservation Initiative.
Synthetic psychedelics, inclusive of LSD, were also excluded due to the potential burden on the city’s resources and to maintain a focus on naturally occurring psychedelics.
Whilst some members of the public took issue with the resolution for excluding communal sharing or gifting of these substances, the council insisted that this could be manipulated as a workaround to constraints on purchasing or selling the substances.
Despite the restrictions, the resolution still represents a substantial step forward. It allows researchers to delve into the potential benefits of these substances in treating an array of mental and emotional health issues without the fear of legal consequences.
Several research projects are underway at UC Berkeley and other institutions to study the effects of psychedelics on cognition, perception, emotion, and their potential role in offering alternatives to conventional pharmaceutical treatments.
A bill, SB58, introduced by state Sen. Scott Wiener, representing statewide legislation, is currently under review in the Assembly.
This bill, if passed, would decriminalise several hallucinogens statewide, including psilocybin, DMT, ibogaine, and mescaline.
Berkeley’s resolution arrives on the heels of Oakland’s similar move nearly four years prior, indicating an ongoing “psychedelic renaissance” of decriminalisation efforts.
A recent poll conducted by the UC Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics divulges that a majority of U.S. voters support the legalisation of psychedelics for therapeutic use.
This transition towards decriminalisation, not only in Berkeley but across other states and municipalities, denotes a growing acknowledgement of the potential therapeutic benefits of these substances, notwithstanding their federal status.
Regardless of the lingering uncertainties surrounding the implementation of this resolution in the face of federal law, Berkeley’s legislation appears to be a cautiously optimistic leap forward in the broader movement towards the acceptance of psychedelic substances for therapeutic use.