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San Francisco City Leaders To Consider Psychedelics Decriminalization Measure

San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors will return from recess in the next month to consider a proposed ordinance that would decriminalize natural psychedelics such as psilocybin or ayahuasca. On July 26, San Francisco Supervisors Dean Preston, Hillary Ronen and Hillary Ronen introduced the measure. They also urged California to reform their psychedelic drug policy.

If adopted by the Board of Supervisors, the ordinance would call on the San Francisco Police Department to make enforcement of laws banning the possession, use, cultivation and transfer of entheogenic plants and fungi including psilocybin mushrooms and ayahuasca and their active components by adults “amongst the lowest priority for the City and County of San Francisco,” according to the text of the proposal.

The ordinance also 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.”

Preston has been critical of the SFPD’s recent increase in enforcement of laws criminalizing drug use. He did however point out that natural psychedelics should be decriminalized.

“We’re not talking about addictive substances here. Around this particular category, I would hope that even folks who disagree around the best approaches to dealing with opioids and other drugs prevalent in San Francisco would agree with deprioritizing enforcement around entheogenic plants,” Preston said, adding that research has shown psychedelics have the potential to treat several serious mental health issues including substance abuse.

Policy on the Evolution of Psychedelics

Preston pointed out that this measure would align San Francisco’s policy with the current movement to view psychedelics differently after years of criminalization and stigma.

“The law hasn’t evolved at all since then, and these substances are treated the way they always have been,” Preston said. “At the same time, the scientific community has been expanding their study and research into their therapeutic use.”

Michael Pollan is a cofounder of the Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics. He also created a Netflix documentary series about the drug.

“These substances have enormous potential, but they are not for everyone and they carry serious risks when used improperly,” Pollan said at a recent news conference. “The shift from destroyer of young minds in the ’60s to effective medicine in the 2020s is as sudden as it is confusing to many people. So we want to address that confusion and that curiosity with solid, credible information from a trusted source.”

“Not many people were doing basic science, trying to understand how it is that psychedelics have the effects they have and why they’re effective in the treatment of various mental disorders,” Pollan added. “We want to figure out what psychedelics might teach us about things like perception, predictive processing, belief change and brain plasticity.”

San Francisco Board of Supervisors would approve the decriminalization ordinance for psychedelics. The city will be the largest municipal authority to do so. Denver became the first nation city to legalize psychedelics. Other cities such as Santa Cruz (California), Ann Arbor (Michigan), Easthampton (Massachusetts) have also adopted similar ordinances. Two years ago, Oregon voters approved landmark legislation that legalized psilocybin therapeutically.

“One of the striking things about the Oregon experiment, which passed by ballot initiative in 2020, is that it will make a guided psychedelic experience available to anyone over 21, regardless of diagnosis,” said Pollan. “I do think that the use of psychedelics will not be restricted to the medical system. It’s not now and won’t be in the future.”

Dr. Markus Roggen is the President and Chief Science Officer of Delic Labs, a cannabis research and development company. He stated that he supported the San Francisco proposal for psychedelics.

“I welcome decriminalization from a philosophical point, as criminalizing ‘drug’ possession/use has brought many costs and pains to the country,” Roggen wrote in an email to Chronic News.

However, he stated that he doesn’t believe that decriminalization is sufficient and that it was necessary to correct the harms that were caused by criminalization of psychedelic drug. Decriminalization must include regulation due to the success of the illicit psychedelics market in the Netherlands.

“There the use is legal but production illegal,” said Roggen. “The government handed this whole industry to the cartels and mafia.”

When it comes back from recess, in September, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is expected to take up the decriminalization of psychedelics.