Local legislators in Somerville, Massachusetts have given their approval to decriminalize different psychedelic substances, reported Marijuana Moment. The resolution received a favorable vote of 9-0 from the Somerville City Council, with support from the Mayor. This comes amid efforts from various cities and states toward law reforms on entheogenic plants and fungi.
The city council made its decision after reviewing testimonies by two people with personal experience with the effects of psychedelics for medicinal purposes. Council members also talked about the failures of the existing drug war and the medicinal value of entheogenic substances in various medical applications such as mental health.
Several advocacy groups namely Decriminalize Nature, Bay Staters for Natural Medicines, and the Heroic Hears Project wrote to legislators, “By decriminalizing psychedelic plants, Massachusetts can mainstream harm-reduction strategies as therapists and health providers embrace these compounds for physical, psychological, and spiritual relief.”
The letter further said, “Somerville has a chance to empower our neighbors, friends, and loved ones to seek the physical and spiritual relief they need and put public health above incarcerating people in cases of addiction and abuse of controlled substances.”
The proposal tackles different aspects of regulations surrounding psychedelics including psilocybin or magic mushrooms and ayahuasca. According to the proposal, the enforcement of laws would not be high at the city’s priority list. It also urges the county’s prosecutor to stop pursuing cases for entheogen possession and distribution charges.
Specifically, it said that “the City Council hereby maintains it should be the policy of the City of Somerville that the investigation and arrest of adult persons for planting, cultivating, purchasing, transporting, distributing, engaging in practices with, and/or possessing entheogenic plants… shall be amongst the lowest law enforcement priority for the City of Somerville.”
It also provides that “no City of Somerville department, agency, board, commission, officer or employee of the city, including without limitation, Somerville Police Department personnel, should use city funds or resources to assist in the enforcement of laws imposing criminal penalties for the use and possession of entheogenic plants by adults.”
It is important to note that the resolution also includes safety and health measures regarding the legal use of these substances including commercial sales and driving under the influence.
The Push Toward Psychedelic Legalization
Somerville’s movement toward legalization of psychedelic plants and fungi is just part of a mounting call for psychedelic law reform. Washington, DC is one of the jurisdictions in the US to decriminalize the substances through ballot initiative during the most recent vote.
During the same election, Oregon made progress by passing an initiative to make psilocybin for medical purposes in a “historic” move. An advisory board is being assembled, the application for which ended on January 1. California has also received a bill for decriminalization for 2021.
As for the cities that are pushing for legalization, one of the most influential development happened with Denver, which became the very first in the US to decriminalize psilocybin back in May 2019.
Taking inspiration from Denver’s move, over 100 cities are taking action to follow. Since then, three other cities namely Oakland, Santa Cruz, and Ann Arbor have also decriminalized possession of psychedelic plants and fungi. Oakland, however, is the very first city where a city council voted to deprioritize criminalization of entheogenic substances. Its legislators have also approved a follow-up resolution that will make amendments in current laws regarding healing ceremonies in which psychedelics are used.
Meanwhile, Ann Arbor lawmakers have also passed a similar resolution that seeks to ceased charging against entheogenic plants and fungi “regardless of the amount at issue.”
The Difference Between Psilocybin and Tetrahydrocannabinol
With the stronger push for the legalization of psychedelics, it is easy to compare the movement with the call for marijuana legalization. Psilocybin, one of the most common substances associated with psychedelics, is found in magic mushrooms. Meanwhile, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive compound, is found in the cannabis plant.
Both substances are mind- and sensory perception-altering, but in different methods, aspects, and levels. It must be noted that the two share some effects including euphoria and rapid heart rate.
Psilocybin interacts with parts of the brain in order to minimize activities in them. This results in alterations in how the consumer experiences the world, particularly by slowing down or deactivating parts responsible for these experiences.
Usually, consumers report movement of stationary objects, distortion of human appearance, and a significant change on the perception of time and self. This is why the component is commonly associated with spiritual and philosophical breakthroughs. The changes cause discomfort to others.
On the other hand, THC is a cannabinoid, which the human body is equipped to receive well with the help of the endocannabinoid system. The body has cannabinoid receptors in various systems of the body including the digestive, immune, and nervous systems. This cannabinoid is known to alter perception, but by amplifying certain functions of the brain such the senses. It also causes hallucinations.
The thing about the two substances is they are also known to offer medicinal effects. Psilocybin is seen as a potential treatment or medical aid to treat psychiatric and behavioral disorders such as depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and cancer-related distress. It also has the potential to treat substance abuse such as alcohol and drug addictions.
Meanwhile, THC also has the potential to treat similar mental and behavioral disorders. In fact, the list of qualifying conditions in different states includes post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, and many others. Aside from this, it is also found to help address cancer-related nausea and vomiting, fibromyalgia, and multiple sclerosis.
In general, marijuana, the THC-rich variety of the cannabis plant, is prescribed for various kinds of chronic and debilitating medical conditions and symptoms of medical conditions. It is also an effective anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving substance.
The Bottom Line
The progress regarding the public and lawmaker’s perception of psychedelics offers a significant development for the future of such plants and fungi. The continuance of such progress can lead to legalization in more states and cities in the future.