Will California Become The First State To Decriminalize Psychedelic Mushrooms?

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Nick Wing
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Kevin Saunders doesn’t believe the state of California should lock up people for offenses related to psychedelic mushrooms, a broad category of fungi that contains the psychoactive compound psilocybin.

Last week, the longtime medical marijuana advocate and dark horse mayoral candidate turned that position into a statewide campaign, submitting a ballot initiative on Friday that would decriminalize the use, possession, sale, transport and cultivation of the mushrooms for adults over 21. He’ll need to collect at least 365,880 valid voter signatures within 180 days of filing to qualify for next year’s ballot, where it would require a majority vote to pass.

Saunders is running for mayor in Marina, a beachside town about 100 miles south of San Francisco. He says the state’s 2016 vote to legalize cannabis is proof that Californians are ready to scale back harsh laws that consider mushrooms to be among the most dangerous drugs.

“What I want to do is take the shackles off. I want to have an adult conversation,” Saunders told the Sacramento Bee. “Not only are the soccer moms high now, but some of them are taking mushrooms.”

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times Saunders touted the therapeutic potential of psilocybin, which has shown promise as a treatment for a number of psychological disorders.

“I think we’re seeing something that could literally heal our brothers and sisters,” he said. “We’re talking about real cutting-edge stuff.”

Recent scientific studies suggest Saunders may be right. Last year, researchers published the results of two separate clinical trials on the effects of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy on patients with cancer-related anxiety and depression. All told, between 60 and 80 percent of the subjects showed clinically significant reductions in both conditions after treatment. Patients reported that the benefits of a single dose of psilocybin along with therapy lasted up to seven months, with minimal side effects.

Psilocybin has also frequently been cited as a potential treatment for addiction. Scientists are currently studying how psychedelic drugs like mushrooms might be used to tackle alcoholism and the opioid epidemic. Saunders claims a mushroom trip helped him quit using heroin 15 years ago.

Under federal law, psilocybin-containing mushrooms are classified as Schedule I drugs, considered to have a high potential for abuse and no legitimate medical purpose. Heroin, MDMA (or ecstasy), LSD and marijuana are also in this category.

There’s scant evidence to support such a classification for mind-altering mushrooms. They’re generally not regarded as addictive, and an international survey of drug users conducted last year found that mushrooms were the safest recreational drug, according to an assessment of related medical treatment.

Saunders is part of a growing movement against the longstanding prohibition on psychedelic drugs and in favor of a more open-minded examination of their therapeutic applications. Activists like Martin Ball, an Oregon professor, and Tom and Sheri Eckert, founders of the Oregon Psilocybin Society who are working to legalize psilocybin in their state, are among those that have joined this psychedelic renaissance.

But recent polling shows that a majority of Americans are also interested in unlocking the power of psychedelics. In a June survey conducted by YouGov, 63 percent of respondents said they support the use of psilocybin in additional medical trials. The same number said they would be willing to use psilocybin themselves if it were proven to be a safe treatment for depression or anxiety.

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Because Most Americans Are Unenthusiastic About It

Only 7 percent of Americans think the United States is <a href="http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/lifestyle/general_lifestyle/november_2012/7_think_u_s_is_winning_war_on_drugs">winning the war on drugs</a>, and few Americans are interested in throwing down more money to try to win, according to a Rasmussen Reports poll released in 2012.
Only 7 percent of Americans think the United States is winning the war on drugs, and few Americans are interested in throwing down more money to try to win, according to a Rasmussen Reports poll released in 2012.

Because The U.S. Won't Control The Flow Of Guns Into Latin America

<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/01/mexico-guns-arturo-sarukhan-us-weapons-mexico-violence-gun-rights_n_1563250.html">Mexican authorities seized almost 70,000 weapons of U.S. origin</a> from 2007 to 2011. In 2004, the U.S. Congress declined to renew a 10-year ban on the sale of assault weapons. They quickly became the guns of choice for Mexican drug cartels.   Some 60,000 people have died in Mexico since President Felipe Calderón launched a military assault on the cartels in 2006.
Mexican authorities seized almost 70,000 weapons of U.S. origin from 2007 to 2011. In 2004, the U.S. Congress declined to renew a 10-year ban on the sale of assault weapons. They quickly became the guns of choice for Mexican drug cartels. Some 60,000 people have died in Mexico since President Felipe Calderón launched a military assault on the cartels in 2006.

Because The United States Leads The Hemisphere In Drug Consumption

Americans have the <a href="http://www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/files/serve/?File_id=81b53476-64a3-4088-9bae-254a84b95ddb">highest rate of illegal drug consumption in the world</a>, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
Americans have the highest rate of illegal drug consumption in the world, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Because The U.S. Ignores Latin American Calls For A Rethinking Of Drug Policy

Several current and former Latin American presidents, like Fernando Henrique Cardoso, have <a href="http://www.globalcommissionondrugs.org/">urged the United States to rethink its failed war on drugs</a>, to no avail.
Several current and former Latin American presidents, like Fernando Henrique Cardoso, have urged the United States to rethink its failed war on drugs, to no avail.

Because Of The Fast And Furious Scandal

In an attempt to track guns as they moved across the U.S.-Mexico border, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms <a href="http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/atf-fast-furious-sg,0,3828090.storygallery">allowed smugglers to purchase weapons</a>. The ATF lost track of the guns and they wound up in the hands of drug cartels -- even as <a href="http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/news/2012/09/11/atf-fast-and-furious-guns-appear-in-colombia/">far south as Colombia</a>.
In an attempt to track guns as they moved across the U.S.-Mexico border, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms allowed smugglers to purchase weapons. The ATF lost track of the guns and they wound up in the hands of drug cartels -- even as far south as Colombia.

Because American Politicians Refuse To Candidly Lead A Debate On Reforming Our Laws

Though the subject of marijuana legalization regularly ranks among the most popular at the digital town halls President Obama takes part in, he <a href="http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/07/06/askobama-twitter-town-hall-ignores-flood-of-marijuana-legalization-questions/">declines to address the issue</a> or give it a <a href="http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/technology/2009/03/obama-addresses.html">thoughtful answer</a>.   Incidentally, a younger Obama <a href="http://www.wusa9.com/news/article/229756/82/We-Need-To-Decriminalize-Our-Marijuana-Laws----Barack-Obama">supported marijuana decriminalization and a rethinking of the drug war</a>.
Though the subject of marijuana legalization regularly ranks among the most popular at the digital town halls President Obama takes part in, he declines to address the issue or give it a thoughtful answer. Incidentally, a younger Obama supported marijuana decriminalization and a rethinking of the drug war.

Because The U.S. Tortures Detainees In Cuba

Almost 800 prisoners accused of terrorism have have been held at the <a href="http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/01/06/guantanamo-ten-years">U.S. military prison of Guantánamo</a>, Cuba, where they are detained indefinitely without facing trial. The United States has drawn international criticism from human rights defenders for subjecting the detainees there to torture and other cruel treatment. The Cuban government opposes hosting the U.S. naval base on its soil.
Almost 800 prisoners accused of terrorism have have been held at the U.S. military prison of Guantánamo, Cuba, where they are detained indefinitely without facing trial. The United States has drawn international criticism from human rights defenders for subjecting the detainees there to torture and other cruel treatment. The Cuban government opposes hosting the U.S. naval base on its soil.

Because The U.S. Has The World's Largest Prison Population

The United States has <a href="http://www.prb.org/Articles/2012/us-incarceration.aspx">the world's largest prison population</a> by far -- largely fed by the war on drugs -- at 500 per 100,000 people.
The United States has the world's largest prison population by far -- largely fed by the war on drugs -- at 500 per 100,000 people.

Because The U.S. Jails Undocumented Immigrants Guilty Of Civil Violations

Because the United States <a href="http://www.detentionwatchnetwork.org/ExposeAndClose">imprisons roughly 400,000 immigrants</a> each year on civil violations.
Because the United States imprisons roughly 400,000 immigrants each year on civil violations.

Because The Border Patrol Kills Kids Who Throw Rocks

The U.S. Border Patrol has come under fire for <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/26/border-patrol-killing-un_n_2018731.html">killing minors who were throwing rocks</a>.
The U.S. Border Patrol has come under fire for killing minors who were throwing rocks.

Because The U.S. Recognized An Illegal Government In Venezuela

When opponents of leftwing Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez briefly ousted him in 2002, the United States not only failed to condemn the coup, it <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/16/world/bush-officials-met-with-venezuelans-who-ousted-leader.html">praised the coup leaders</a>.
When opponents of leftwing Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez briefly ousted him in 2002, the United States not only failed to condemn the coup, it praised the coup leaders.

Because U.S. Extradition Undermines Justice In Colombia

When Colombia demobilized the largest rightwing paramilitary organization in 2006, if offered lenient sentences to those who would offer details on the atrocities the AUC committed. But rather than facing justice in their home country, <a href="http://www.propublica.org/article/colombian-paramilitaries-extradited-to-u.s.-where-cases-are-sealed">Colombia has extradited several paramilitary leaders to the United States</a> to face drug trafficking charges -- marking it harder for people like Bela Henríquez to find out the details surrounding the murders of their loved ones.   "More than anger, I feel powerless," Henriquez, whose father, Julio, was kidnapped and killed on the orders of one defendant, told ProPublica. "We don't know what they are negotiating, what conditions they are living under. What guarantee of justice do we have?"
When Colombia demobilized the largest rightwing paramilitary organization in 2006, if offered lenient sentences to those who would offer details on the atrocities the AUC committed. But rather than facing justice in their home country, Colombia has extradited several paramilitary leaders to the United States to face drug trafficking charges -- marking it harder for people like Bela Henríquez to find out the details surrounding the murders of their loved ones. "More than anger, I feel powerless," Henriquez, whose father, Julio, was kidnapped and killed on the orders of one defendant, told ProPublica. "We don't know what they are negotiating, what conditions they are living under. What guarantee of justice do we have?"

Because The U.S. Helped Create Today's Cartels

The U.S funded the Guatemalan military during the 1960s and 1970s anti-insurgency war, despite awareness of widespread human rights violations. Among the recipients of U.S military funding and training were the Kaibiles, a special force unit responsible for several massacres. Former <a href="http://ghrc-usa.org/Publications/factsheet_kaibiles.pdf" target="_hplink">Kaibiles have joined the ranks of the Zetas drug cartel</a>.
The U.S funded the Guatemalan military during the 1960s and 1970s anti-insurgency war, despite awareness of widespread human rights violations. Among the recipients of U.S military funding and training were the Kaibiles, a special force unit responsible for several massacres. Former Kaibiles have joined the ranks of the Zetas drug cartel.

Because The U.S. Backed An Argentine Military Dictatorship That Killed 30,000 People

The rightwing military dictatorship that took over Argentina in 1976 "disappeared" some 30,000 people, according to estimates by several human rights organizations. They subjected countless others to sadistic forms of torture and stole dozens of babies from mothers they jailed and murdered. The military junta carried out the so-called "Dirty War" with the <a href="http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB104/index.htm">full knowledge and support of the Nixon administration</a>.
The rightwing military dictatorship that took over Argentina in 1976 "disappeared" some 30,000 people, according to estimates by several human rights organizations. They subjected countless others to sadistic forms of torture and stole dozens of babies from mothers they jailed and murdered. The military junta carried out the so-called "Dirty War" with the full knowledge and support of the Nixon administration.

Because The U.S. Helped Topple The Democratically Elected Government Of Salvador Allende

When it became clear that socialist Salvador Allende would likely win the presidency in Chile, U.S. President Richard Nixon told the CIA to "make the economy scream" in order to "prevent Allende from coming to power or to unseat him," <a href="http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB8/nsaebb8i.htm">according to the National Security Archive</a>.   Augusto Pinochet overthrew Allende in a bloody coup on Sept. 11, 1973, torturing and disappearing thousands of his political rivals with the backing of the U.S. government.
When it became clear that socialist Salvador Allende would likely win the presidency in Chile, U.S. President Richard Nixon told the CIA to "make the economy scream" in order to "prevent Allende from coming to power or to unseat him," according to the National Security Archive. Augusto Pinochet overthrew Allende in a bloody coup on Sept. 11, 1973, torturing and disappearing thousands of his political rivals with the backing of the U.S. government.

Because the U.S. Backed A Military Coup In Brazil In 1964

The Brazilian military overthrew the democratically elected government of João Goulart in 1964, with the <a href="http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB118/index.htm">enthusiastic support of President Lyndon Johnson</a>, ushering in two decades of repressive government.
The Brazilian military overthrew the democratically elected government of João Goulart in 1964, with the enthusiastic support of President Lyndon Johnson, ushering in two decades of repressive government.

Because The U.S. Funded A Terrorist Group In Nicaragua

The Reagan administration funded the Contra rebels against the Marxist Sandinista government in Nicaragua. Regarded by many as terrorists, <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/1985-03-08/news/mn-32283_1_contras">the Contras murdered, tortured and raped civilians</a>. When human rights organizations reported on the crimes, the Reagan administration accused them of working on behalf of the Sandinistas.
The Reagan administration funded the Contra rebels against the Marxist Sandinista government in Nicaragua. Regarded by many as terrorists, the Contras murdered, tortured and raped civilians. When human rights organizations reported on the crimes, the Reagan administration accused them of working on behalf of the Sandinistas.

Because The U.S. Helped Finance Atrocities In Colombia

Through Plan Colombia, the U.S. has pumped over $6 billion into Colombia's military and intelligence service since 2002. The intelligence service has been disbanded for <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/national-security/us-aid-implicated-in-abuses-of-power-in-colombia/2011/06/21/gIQABrZpSJ_story.html">spying on the Supreme Court and carrying out smear campaigns</a> against the justices, as well as journalists, members of Congress and human rights activists. The military faces numerous allegations of human rights abuse, including the practice of killing non-combatants from poor neighborhoods and dressing them up as guerrillas to inflate enemy casualty statistics.
Through Plan Colombia, the U.S. has pumped over $6 billion into Colombia's military and intelligence service since 2002. The intelligence service has been disbanded for spying on the Supreme Court and carrying out smear campaigns against the justices, as well as journalists, members of Congress and human rights activists. The military faces numerous allegations of human rights abuse, including the practice of killing non-combatants from poor neighborhoods and dressing them up as guerrillas to inflate enemy casualty statistics.

Because The U.S. Maintains A Trade Embargo Against Cuba Despite Opposition From The Entire World

For 21 years, the <a href="http://news.yahoo.com/u-n-urges-end-u-cuba-embargo-21st-192516276.html">U.N. has condemned the U.S. embargo against Cuba</a> and for 21 years the United States has ignored it.   Some 188 nations voted against the embargo this year, with only the U.S. itself, Israel, Palau opposing.
For 21 years, the U.N. has condemned the U.S. embargo against Cuba and for 21 years the United States has ignored it. Some 188 nations voted against the embargo this year, with only the U.S. itself, Israel, Palau opposing.

Because The U.S. Engineered A Coup Against The Democratically Elected Government Of Guatemala In 1954

At the behest of United Fruit Company, a U.S. corporation with extensive holdings in Central America, the CIA helped engineer the overthrow of the Guatemalan government in 1954, ushering in decades of civil war that resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives.
At the behest of United Fruit Company, a U.S. corporation with extensive holdings in Central America, the CIA helped engineer the overthrow of the Guatemalan government in 1954, ushering in decades of civil war that resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives.

Because The U.S. Backed The Salvadoran Military As It Committed Atrocities In The 1980s

El Salvador's military <a href="http://www.pbs.org/itvs/enemiesofwar/elsalvador2.html">committed atrocities throughout the 1980s with U.S. funding</a>.

Because The U.S. Invaded Haiti and Occupied It For Almost 20 Years

Woodrow Wilson ordered the Marines to <a href="http://history.state.gov/milestones/1914-1920/Haiti">invade and occupy Haiti in 1915</a> after the assassination of the Haitian president. The troops didn't leave until 1934.
Woodrow Wilson ordered the Marines to invade and occupy Haiti in 1915 after the assassination of the Haitian president. The troops didn't leave until 1934.

Because The U.S. Invaded Haiti Again In 1994

One invasion wasn't good enough. The U.S. <a href="http://wws.princeton.edu/research/cases/haiti.pdf">military returned in 1994</a>.
One invasion wasn't good enough. The U.S. military returned in 1994.

Because The U.S. Trained Military Leaders Who Committed Atrocities In Latin America

The School of the Americas in Ft. Benning, Georgia, trained soldiers and generals responsible for massacres and torture of tens of thousands of Latin Americans, <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/insidestoryamericas/2012/09/201292081054585410.html">according to Al Jazeera</a>.
The School of the Americas in Ft. Benning, Georgia, trained soldiers and generals responsible for massacres and torture of tens of thousands of Latin Americans, according to Al Jazeera.

Because The U.S. Backed Dictator Rafael Trujillo

Rafael Trujillo Sr.  (Photo by Hank Walker//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)
Rafael Trujillo Sr. (Photo by Hank Walker//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

Because The U.S. Invaded Cuba And Undermined The Island's Independence

The so-called "Spanish-American War" began in 1868 with the first of a series of three wars for Cuban independence. In 1898, the U.S. got involved, invading Cuba and occupying the island after forcing Spain to give it. The United States then forced Cuba to <a href="http://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=true&doc=55">accept the odious Platt Amendent to its Constitution</a>, which allowed the United States to intervene in the country militarily and established the U.S. military base at Guantánamo.
The so-called "Spanish-American War" began in 1868 with the first of a series of three wars for Cuban independence. In 1898, the U.S. got involved, invading Cuba and occupying the island after forcing Spain to give it. The United States then forced Cuba to accept the odious Platt Amendent to its Constitution, which allowed the United States to intervene in the country militarily and established the U.S. military base at Guantánamo.

Because The U.S. Colonized Puerto Rico

As long as you're invading Cuba, <a href="http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/puerto-rico-invaded">why not take Puerto Rico</a> as well? The United States invaded in 1898 and the island remains a U.S. territory today.
As long as you're invading Cuba, why not take Puerto Rico as well? The United States invaded in 1898 and the island remains a U.S. territory today.

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