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Magic Mushrooms are Legal in Oakland – So Now What?

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Just because a city council votes to decriminalize these “entheogenic, or psychoactive plants and fungi,” does that mean it’s a good idea? Denver was the first city to legalize the mushrooms, and ayahuasca and peyote (for people at least 21), and now Oakland, CA, has.

Just what are these mushrooms? The Oxford dictionary defines an entheogen as a chemical substance, typically of plant origin, that is ingested to produce a non-ordinary state of consciousness for religious or spiritual purposes. Wikipedia defines a psychoactive or psychotropic drug as “a chemical substance that changes brain function and results in alterations in perception, mood, consciousness, cognition, or behavior.”

Remember that some indigenous communities in the western U.S. have used these substances for hundreds of years for their medicinal properties.

Users who spoke at the city council meeting said that traditional plant-based medicines had helped them overcome depression, drug addiction, and post-traumatic stress disorder. (Note that as with marijuana, using these mushrooms and other plants is still against federal and state laws. They’re considered Schedule 1 drugs (those with no legal medical use and potential for abuse) under the Controlled Substances Act.

One council member said the action of decriminalizing these mushrooms would allow police to go after more serious crimes, while amendments added caveats stressing that they’re not for everyone. The article also quotes a council member as saying that “people with PTSD or major depression seek professional help before using them” and warns that they should have expert guidance and someone with them when they take the mushrooms.

As often with news like this, you wonder how addiction experts feel about the news

To find out, we talked to Tyler Fitzgerald, Summit Estate’s Clinical Director.

Summit Estate: What do you think of one of the council members saying that the mushrooms are “tremendous for helping to enable healing, particularly for folks who have experienced trauma in their lives?”

Tyler: People’s reactions are somewhat divided because medical research says you can’t develop a dependency on them, but they can be abused somewhat, the same as alcohol or opioids or benzodiazepines, and there is somewhat of a psychological dependence.

I’m not overly familiar with the damage that can be caused with chronic use other than depression and issues with concentration and logical thinking, and there’s no definitive answer on how long it takes to develop those issues. It will take more research.

Will legalization make a difference?

I don’t know that it will. People haven’t been waiting for it become legal to try it. There are some studies that seem positive for their use in small amounts and in a guided, supervised process. The legalization seems to be for recreational use. They haven’t loosened restrictions on research — because the plants are still restricted on the federal and state levels it can’t be done, so most of the research is done in other countries.

Summit Estate: So there’s no reason to be alarmed?

Tyler: The only real danger is that kids may get the mushrooms. I don’t know that there will be dispensaries for them and other psychoactive plants like there is with marijuana. Even so, those who are predisposed to addiction or who are in active addiction treatment should avoid them.