Psychedelics Decriminalized in San Francisco

Stephen Andrews
22 Sep 2022

Earlier this month, the City by the Bay made it easier to use and cultivate magic mushrooms. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved decriminalizing entheogens or any plants that can generate mind-altering effects. The legal measure calls for local police authorities to give investigations and arrests related to the use of entheogens and any compound they contain "the lowest priority."

Entheogens refer to the "full spectrum of plants, fungi, and natural materials that can inspire personal and spiritual well-being." It is also considered that entheogenic plants "can benefit psychological and physical wellness, and can reestablish human's inalienable and direct relationship to nature." 

Entheogens have been shown to benefit the well-being of individuals seeking treatment for depression, PTSD, opiate and methamphetamine addiction, grief, and end-of-life anxiety. San Francisco campaigners have said there is an "unmet need in San Francisco's communities for the compassionate and effective care that these medicines provide."

September 6th marked the date when the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed resolution #220896. The measure supports "entheogenic plant practices, urging City law enforcement agencies that the investigation and arrest of individuals involved with the adult use of entheogenic plants on the Federal Schedule 1 List be amongst the lowest priority for the City and County of San Francisco, and urging the State of California and the United States Federal government to decriminalize entheogenic plant practices and their uses."

The resolution is not only limited to decriminalization, but it additionally allows "planting, cultivating, purchasing, transporting, distributing, engaging in practices with" any such plants. No quantity limits are mentioned. 

Substances covered by the legal measure include psilocybin, widely known as "magic mushrooms," as well as peyote, which, just like Cannabis, remain Schedule 1 controlled substances at the federal level. The Schedule 1 classification means that police are still capable of legally bringing possession or sale charges against a person if they wish so. 

The DEA defines schedule 1 controlled drugs as having no accepted medicinal use, and they are a top priority for practicing law enforcement. 

It is unclear what impact the recent San Francisco resolution will actually have on the policing of psychedelics in the City by the Bay. As noted by the resolution, religious freedoms already protect some psychedelic practices in the US, an example being the use of ayahuasca in certain religious contexts. 

The measure was sponsored by Supervisors Dean Preston and Hillary Ronen and hailed by the organization Decrim SF, which issued a statement of support. 

"I am proud to work with Decrim Nature to put San Francisco on record in support of the decriminalization of psychedelics and entheogens," said Preston, one of the resolution's co-sponsors. 

"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," Preston added.

San Francisco follows suit of its neighbor Oakland, California, which decriminalized plant-based psychedelics back in 2019. Since then, the reform appears to be having its intended effect of preventing arrests for entheogens on the territory of Oakland. 

However, the legal path to psychedelics in California has halted earlier this year when Senate Bill 519, designed to decriminalize entheogens at the state level, was delayed pending further research.

Apart from San Francisco and Oakland, entheogens are legal in a few other jurisdictions across the United States, including Seattle, Washington; Santa Cruz, California; Denver, Colorado; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Washington, D.C.; and the State of Oregon. Around the world, Portugal, Jamaica, Brazil, and the Netherlands have also decriminalized some or all types of entheogens. 

Stephen Andrews