Somerville Decriminalizes Magic Mushrooms

We’re on a roll! 

The city of Somerville, Massachusetts has voted YES to decriminalize the use of entheogens (or natural psychedelics). Their unanimous 9-0 vote on the 14th of January makes Somerville the latest U.S. community to flip the script on psychedelics. You may remember that Washtenaw, Oregon, and Ann Arbor have done the exact same thing!  

Bear in mind that the Somerville vote covers only naturally-occurring psychedelics, so no LSD or MDMA…yet. The name given to the full spectrum of psychedelic plants and fungi that can make you trip is ‘entheogens‘… these include psilocybin mushrooms and truffles, ayahuasca, mescaline, peyote, and ibogaine.

Beneficial for Treating Ailments

The vote cited various reasons to decriminalise the ‘natural’. Chief among them is the scientific research being carried out, proving just how beneficial entheogens are for treating mental health conditions. These can range from substance abuse, addiction, PTSD, chronic depression, end-of-life anxiety, grief, and cluster headaches.

The council also saw the use of natural psychedelics in the traditional and religious context. Shamanic rituals can “catalyse profound experiences of personal and spiritual growth.”

The Somerville City Council with Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone in January 2020. (Photo courtesy: City Council website)

Councilor Jesse Clingan, one of the sponsors of the resolution, said:

“As a city, I think it’s important we take a stand to protect indigenous rituals and religious rites as well as decreasing harms caused in the name of the so called war on drugs.

“This is just another tool in the tool box in terms of what we have available, to help with many of the afflictions that are affecting society today.”

Of course, the vote to decriminalise is not without its legal limitations. Like the others before them, Somerville still does not allow the selling of natural psychedelics. Nor are you allowed to possess or distribute them near schools, or to drive while under their influence.  

To quote the full policy:

“The arrest of adult persons for using or possessing [natural psychedelics] shall be amongst the lowest law enforcement priority.”

Welcome to Somerville! The city will no longer prioritise arrests for those caught using natural psychedelics. (Photo courtesy: City Council website)

This means that Somerville police are not to use city resources in arresting those found to be using (or holding) entheogenic plants and fungi. That being said, U.S. federal law — which trumps any state or city law — still bans the growth and cultivation of psilocybin mushrooms if you don’t have a special license from the DEA. 

“In a Much Better Place Mentally”

Alex Karasik, a 31-year-old resident of Somerville, shared his testimony with the city council before the vote. 

“I was nearly killed in a robbery in Chicago four years ago, and I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result. And a lot of my life plans were derailed.

“Through a combination of therapy and psilocybin mushrooms, over time I have overcome my experience, and I’m happy to say that I’m in a much better place mentally.

Success stories like Mr. Karasik’s are becoming more and more widespread now, and they will only help to continue the march towards legalisation.

“I had a profound experience. Immediately after, I felt that a lot had been repaired in a short time. I respect this substance and what it does.”

Decriminalize Nature

Scientific studies on the benefits of psychedelics go a long way towards legal arguments. Various advocacy groups in the Somerville area, such as Bay Staters of Natural Medicine, Heroic Hearts Project, and Decriminalize Nature Massachusetts, sent a letter to city council.

“As our community confronts record-shattering opioid abuse, depression, and suicide, decriminalisation represents a huge step forward for public health and criminal justice.

The best is yet to come. Will the psychedelic train chug faster for the U.S. now that President Biden is at the helm? (Photo courtesy: Decriminalize Nature)

“Designated a ‘breakthrough therapy’ by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), psilocybin mushrooms and other natural psychedelics are profoundly effective in treating these ailments.”

The letter also mentioned other U.S. cities and states that had already decriminalised psychedelic plants and fungi. Eight state lawmakers also promised to treat controlled substances as an “issue of public health”, not of public safety. 

The Science is Undeniable

The Somerville vote — and many others like it — is a huge step forward to repair the damage caused by heavy-handed drug laws. 

Tons of scientific studies are finally showing the world just how powerful psychedelic experiences can be. Not just for leisure, mind you — but for treating mental health issues such as depression and addiction. These problems have become especially common during COVID-19 lockdowns.

Now, it’s up to our lawmakers to see that the writing’s on the wall. They must decriminalise psilocybin and its fellow entheogens for the benefit of the people they represent.

Will your state/ city/ town be next to decriminalize? Share your thoughts down below!

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