Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Falling Dominoes (Oakland Decriminalizes Psychedelics!)

<p>Terri Loewenthal, Pyschscape 66, San Gabriel Peak, Calif., 2018.</p>
"Psychscape 18" by Oakland artist Terri Loewenthal

America's drug laws have long been among the strictest in the world.  Since Nixon declared the War on Drugs in the '60s & Reagan renewed it with vicious fervor in the 1980s, this country has suffered one drug epidemic after another while some of our best & brightest languished in prison for minor drug possession.  Bill Clinton's '3 Strikes Crime Bill' pushed it over the edge, causing the U.S. to the have the largest incarceration rate in the entire world.

And then the mood started to shift.  It was a gradual shift, almost imperceptible, until momentum built up & things reached a boiling point. 

The first domino fell when Colorado legalized cannabis in 2012.  Other states were quick to follow.  It seemed like a no-brainer yet it took 80+ years to make it happen.  Then Denver once again blazed the trail by decriminalizing psilocybin "magic" mushrooms in 2019 by a slim margin of the vote.  People were stunned:  Could this really be happening?  Weed is one thing, but could the "tough on crime" U.S. of A. really be allowing hallucinogenic mushrooms to become semi-legal?  Then on June 5th, 2019, Oakland CA took it one step further & decriminalized ALL plant-based psychedelics, including mushrooms, cacti, iboga & Ayahuasca.  Shut the front door!  

Image result for psilocybin mushrooms

I've always said that plant drugs should be the first to be legalized/decriminalized for the simple fact that they're natural resources.  Not that they're inherently safer than synthetic drugs (though many are), it's the principle of the matter--anything that grows on this Earth & was here before humans has no business being illegal.  The idea of banning nature is ludicrous & shows just how egotistical our lawmakers can truly be.  Plus, it's never been illegal to grow deadly datura or deathcap mushrooms so why should lawmakers be able to ban only the mind-expanding ones with recreational potential that rarely (if ever) kill anyone?

Man uses magic mushrooms to prevent cluster headaches

Like cannabis, psychedelic plants have a long history of being used as medicines, particularly in psychotherapy & addiction treatment.  Ibogaine (from the African iboga root) has been shown to treat severe opioid addiction while Ayahuasca has been used by war veterans to help break through their PTSD.  Psilocybin mushrooms also have the weird-but-welcome benefit of treating cluster headaches--one of the most severe forms of pain known to man.  No one is quite sure how they work but anecdotally they have been a lifesaver for many sufferers.  Meanwhile the peyote plant, which contains mescaline, has been the spiritual sacrament of the Native American Church for many years, helping users attain nirvana & ward off alcoholism & other destructive habits. 

Related image
Peyote cacti
While psychedelic plants won't be available for purchase in stores like marijuana, they will no longer be treated as a priority by law enforcement when present in personal use amounts.  Driving under the influence, selling commercially or to underage people & manufacturing of the plants will remain illegal under Oakland law.  Plants that fall into different categories and aren't true hallucinogens, such as opium poppies or coca, will still be illegal as well.  Hopefully that will change as our drug laws continue to soften, but for now let's celebrate this victory & help keep the momentum going by being responsible citizens.  (Looking at you, Denver & Oakland). 

Image result for iboga
Iboga root
This psychedelic renaissance is in step with what's going on in medicine at the moment.  Ketamine as a treatment for resistant depression is another novel and once-forbidden approach that's gaining traction as a legit avenue.  There have also been studies on MDMA's effects on social anxiety in autistic adults, though that may be further from becoming a clinical reality.  And, much to my dismay, there was an opioid-based antidepressant (ALKS-5461) that was on the road to being fast-tracked to approval by the FDA but just missed the mark due to insufficient proof of effectiveness.  It might still hit the market one day but not this year like I'd hoped.  Still, it's promising that these novel avenues are even being considered by our draconian regulators. 

Image result for ayahuasca
Ayahuasca brew (B. caapi vine & Psychotria viridis)

All of this is mind-blowingly great news for those who have lived long enough to remember when you could go to prison for a single pot seed or stem.  The progress made in the last decade is more than the past 35 years combined.  I never thought I'd live to see marijuana legalized and now I'm seeing cities decriminalize psychedelics, which is a class of drugs the government has always treated as on par with heroin (or worse).  Psychedelics were used by the hippies & Vietnam protesters of the 1960s & thus demonized thoroughly.  For instance, LSD is measured by the weight of the carrier material it's on--be it blotter paper, sugar cubes or whatever--instead of the actual amount of LSD, thus making for a much longer prison sentence for those caught with it.  This was not an accident.  People caught dealing in acid often go away for a lot longer than those caught with cocaine, heroin or other hard drugs.  (To be clear, LSD is not legal under Oakland's new law.  I'm just using it as an example since it's one of the more well-known hallucinogens).  The propaganda associated with hallucinogens has always been terrifying & over-the-top, as you can see in the video below:

Vintage LSD propaganda

The ability of hallucinogens to expand the mind & change the way we view society & our place in it is a direct threat to the establishment's control and, as we saw in the 1960s, authority figures don't like that.  We'll have to safeguard these newly won freedoms by being sensible & following the rules.  Don't fucking drive while tripping; don't share your drugs with teenagers & don't try to grow your own Secret Garden of ethnobotanicals in your backyard.  K?  Remember that we've still got a long way to go before we can truly be "free".  There's still a war on kratom--another age-old botanical that's helped thousands get off harder drugs safely, which just proves that the war on drugs is far from over.  But today we celebrate winning this battle.

Congrats, Oakland!  💪😎

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