Oakland California is the Second American City to Decriminalize Psychedelics – but there could be much more to this developing trend
Oakland California City Council voted on Tuesday 28th May 2019 to approve the decriminalization of psilocybin mushrooms and other “natural sources” of psychedelics. Most notably, Ibogaine and Ayahuasca too. This is actually significant in view of the opioid crisis since many are now advocating the use of these substances as part of effective treatment against opioid addiction. But it also raises fears of what can go wrong if this gets out of control.
Are these substances risk free?
Jonny Tabaie, who employs several emergency Doctors at his luxury Ibogaine rehab facilities, is one of the people with the most experience in witnessing the administration of these psychedelics during rehab and detox, with zero fatalities and a 90% recovery rate for addiction cases. He had the following warning to Americans: “People should not underestimate the risk associated with self-administration. It is obvious that many people who suffer from opioid addiction know that Ibogaine is one of the most effective treatments used during rehab, but that is just half of the story. Self-administering Ibogaine, without the presence of an emergency Doctor and guidance of someone with significant experience, has been fatal at times. Just because a substance is now legal in your state, it does not mean it is safe to consume it without adequate supervision”.
An image of a high-tech medical facility, part of The Holistic Sanctuary, run by Johnny Tabaie, which is the first and only licensed Ibogaine administration facility in the world.
More on this developing story:
Oakland moved forward on this matter only a few weeks after the City of Denver decriminalized these substances by a narrow margin of vote. Included in the resolution are ayahuasca, peyote and ibogaine. These are natural substances that have natural psychedelic effects and they were traditionally used as medicines and to induce spiritual experiences by indigenous Africans in Central Africa and indigenous Americans in North, Central and South America. The resolution orders law enforcement agencies to stop investigating, arresting and prosecuting people for possession and use of these substances. Oakland is the second city in the US, after Denver Colorado, to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms.
About Natural Psychedelics
Peyote is a cactus that is indigenous to the South-Western parts of the US and parts of Mexico. It has no spine, and it has buttons that look like discs that are removed and then dried out. The alkaloids contained in the buttons are psychoactive which has led to abuse of the plant. In native American traditions peyote was used for medicinal and religious purposes for up to twenty thousand years. Its medical benefits that used to be known by indigenous tribes, are no longer known because research was prohibited by Western governments. Its psychedelic effects are necessary during religious ceremonies as they are believed to bring people closer to God and enhance communication at that level. It is this psychedelic effect that made the American government worry and eventually ban the use, possession and sale of this substance.
The use of peyote in the US is legal only within the Native American church where it is used ceremonially. It is illegal when used recreationally. Native Americans do not like the way people use peyote for fun because it loses its spiritual importance in the eyes of ignorant people and its use recreationally will not benefit the users outside the religious environment.
Peyote can be rolled in a tobacco leaf and smoked or brewed as a tea, eaten or turned into a powder that is taken through capsules.
Ibogaine is a natural psychoactive substance found in the iboga tree in Central Africa where has been used for medicinal and spiritual purposes since time immemorial. People use it to explore their mind and the spirit world. It is an alkaloid that is either extracted from the iboga plant or semi-synthesized from the precursor compound voacangine which is another alkaloid. The pygmies of Central Africa passed knowledge of ibogaine use to the Bwiti tribe in Gabon. Then French explorers took the knowledge from the Bwiti tribe to France in 1899-1900.
The US federal government classified psilocybin as a schedule 1 drug, one that has high potential for abuse without any medical purposes. It banned it in the 1960s. Because it was prohibited in other countries, research into its effectiveness in treating drug abuse has been slow. Preliminary research has indicated that it may help with drug addiction and it is already being used for the treatment of drug addiction in some countries. Now it is being studied as an alternative treatment for drug addiction to opioid, methamphetamine and even cocaine. Scientists have now found that it works by adjusting brain chemistry so that a person who should have experienced intense withdrawal symptoms for up to two weeks stops having withdrawal symptoms and cravings. In other words, it does not end addiction, it interrupts it. (1).
Gwyneth Paltrow has written about this substance on Goop and people may want to visit that website for more information. This was reported by the New York Times. Recent studies, including the Johns Hopkins University study published in 2018, have found that it is effective for the treatment of anxiety and depression. This is not surprising because many natural substances were used medicinally for thousands of years by indigenous societies before Western governments banned them in the 20th century. This move by Oakland City Council is revolutionary as it continuing a new trend started by Denver City Council.
Ayahuasca is the Anglicized version of the word ayawaska which means spirit vine or soul vine. It is a psychoactive brew made from the ayahuasca or bani stereopsis caapi vine, and other ingredients such as chacruna plant which is also psychoactive. Chacruna contains a psychedelic substance called DMT which is responsible with the psychoactive effects associated with ayahuasca use.
Ayahuasca was used in the Amazon region of South America for religious purposes for thousands of years. The shamans or medicine men use ayahuasca to open up communication with nature. It helps them for divination purposes and to diagnose diseases.
The tea is better taken in a closed environment such as a magical ceremony. The effects of the tea vary from a little stimulation to extreme visions. Westerners develop interest in ayahuasca when they hear intriguing stories of its mind-altering effects that heal depression, anxiety, addiction and fear and enhance exploration of the capabilities of their mind.
Psylocybin is a natural psychedelic prodrug compound found in more than 200 species of mushroom that are generally known as psilocybin mushrooms. Psilocybin is fast converted in the body to psilocin, a mind-altering drug similar to LSD, DMT and mescaline. It causes euphoria, changes in perception, visual and mental hallucination, spiritual experiences, and a distorted sense of time. Side effect may include nausea and panic attacks. Indigenous societies used psylocybin many thousands of years ago for divinatory and spiritual ceremonies.
The US federal government made it illegal to plant, buy or sell psilocybin beginning in the 1960s. The ban made it difficult to study its effects on the body and mind. Still, its popularity as a spiritually enhancing substance grew starting in the 1970s. The intensity and duration of the effects of psylocybin vary depending on the cultivar of mushrooms, individual physiology and dosage taken. Its mind-altering effects last from two to six hours.
Psylocybin has very low levels of toxins and low harm potential. It will be interesting to see how society responds to its decriminalization.
Decriminalize Nature Oakland
The Oakland City Council members voted to approve the move to decriminalize these substances. However, they will not include the use and possession of LSD, MDMA and other synthetic drugs.
Decriminalize Nature Oakland, the community group that that advocated for the decriminalization of these natural substances believes that they may reduce symptoms of certain mental health problems. After all these substances have been used as medicines by indigenous societies for thousands of years. In their resolution they claimed, “Substance abuse, addiction, recidivism, trauma, post-traumatic stress symptoms, chronic depression, severe anxiety, end-of-life anxiety, grief, diabetes, cluster headaches, and other conditions are plaguing our community…. The use of Entheogenic Plants has been shown to be beneficial to the health and well-being of individuals and communities in addressing these afflictions.”
In a new move in 2018, the federal government lifted the status of psilocybin to “breakthrough therapy” in order to allow more research into how to use it to treat depression. However, efforts to decriminalize psilocybin in the whole state of California in 2018 failed to qualify for the 2018 ballot.
As states legalize substances like Ibogaine, it may pave the way for a revolutionary approach to fight back against the opioid crisis. But the FDA and medical board will need to move swiftly to avoid unintended consequences associated with unsupervised self-treatment from those who are understandably desperate in their attempt to be rehabilitated. There is no doubt that under the current government, things are moving rather swiftly if one considers that CBD hemp was recently legalized – and now we see movement on psychedelics.
1. Brown TK. (2013, Mar). Current Drug Abuse Review. Ibogaine in the treatment of substance dependence.