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San Francisco moves to decriminalize psychedelics

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Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution this week to decriminalize psychedelics like psilocybin mushrooms, ibogaine, and ayahuasca.

The resolution calls on San Francisco police to categorize psychoactive plants — known as entheogens — "amongst the lowest priority" for penalties. The measure also asks for city criminal justice resources to not be spent on individuals using psychedelics and “advocates for the decriminalization of entheogenic plant practices on a state and federal level,” reports CBS News. The resolution does not formally legalize psychoactive drugs.

"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,” said San Francisco Supervisor Dean Preston, who co-sponsored the resolution.

Similar measures have recently passed in other jurisdictions. In 2020, Oregon became the first state to fully legalize psychedelic mushrooms for the treatment of mental health issues.

At the federal level, most psychedelics are listed as Schedule I drugs under the United States Controlled Substances Act, placing them under the highest level of regulation by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA.) The DEA defines Schedule I drugs as having no accepted medicinal use.

The San Francisco resolution cites research that has found psychedelics have proven clinically useful in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), opiate and methamphetamine addiction, depression, and cluster headaches.

Research into the therapeutic effects of psychedelics has increased dramatically in recent years. The Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research, for example, is backed by $17 million of funding. Earlier this year, the center found that psilocybin treatment for major depression to be effective for up to a year in most patients. Similarly, the non-profit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) has conducted groundbreaking research in using MDMA to treat PTSD.

California state Sen. Scott Wiener recently attempted to pass a bill legalizing the possession and use of small doses of certain psychedelic drugs throughout the state. The legislation failed, but Wiener said he plans to reintroduce the bill in 2023.

"Psychedelic drugs, which are not addictive, have incredible promise when it comes to mental health and addiction treatment," Wiener said in a statement.

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