Scientifically speaking, mushrooms are said to be the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus, typically produced above ground, on soil, or on its food source. Typical are the button or common mushrooms classified as agaricus bisporus that are widely cultivated for food around the world. Governments don’t care how many of these mushrooms that anyone consumes.
Some mushrooms are poisonous, and misidentifying them as an edible species of mushroom can be deadly or potentially deadly. The toxins alpha-Amanitin, orellanine, monomethylhydrazine, and ergotamine that are found in some mushrooms can cause fatal liver damage, kidney failure, brain damage, or cardiac arrest. Although eating a poisonous mushroom is not a crime, I don’t know of anyone who would deliberately eat one.
Other mushrooms have medicinal, psychoactive, or psychedelic properties. The most common are psilocybin mushrooms — magic mushrooms or shrooms — which can be found in subtropical humid forests in Europe, the Americas, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. Ingesting magic mushrooms can send one on a “trip” with visual and auditory hallucinations, emotional changes, the inability to discern fantasy from reality, and altered perception of time and space. Side effects can include nausea, vomiting, euphoria, muscle weakness or relaxation, panic attacks, drowsiness, and lack of coordination. Governments around the world regulate or prohibit the consumption of psilocybin mushrooms.
Here in the United States, the Psychotropic Substances Act of 1978, which amended the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, was enacted to ensure compliance with the United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances signed in 1971. Psilocybin is a Schedule I drug along with LSD, heroin, marijuana, and ecstasy. This means that the government believes it has “a high potential for abuse,” “no currently accepted medical treatment use in the U.S.,” and “a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.”
It was reported late last year that there were nearly 100 jurisdictions in the United States where the decriminalization of psychedelics such as psilocybin either was being considered or was already in the works. Voters in Denver have already approved a ballot measure to decriminalize magic mushrooms. Initiated Ordinance 301 asked the question,
Shall the voters of the City and County of Denver adopt an ordinance to the Denver Revised Municipal Code that would make the personal use and personal possession of psilocybin mushrooms by persons twenty-one (21) years of age and older the city’s lowest law-enforcement priority, prohibit the city from spending resources to impose criminal penalties for the personal use and personal possession of psilocybin mushrooms by persons twenty-one (21) years of age and older, and establish the psilocybin mushroom policy review panel to assess and report on the effects of the ordinance?
The initiative passed by the slim margin of 50.64 percent to 49.36 percent.
Also last year, the Oakland City Council, by a unanimous vote, approved a measure decriminalizing the possession of “entheogenic” plant- and fungi-based substances. Under the terms of the measure, “entheogenic plant practices,” including the consumption of mushrooms, are now “amongst the lowest priority” for law enforcement, and the use of “any city funds or resources to assist in the enforcement of laws imposing criminal penalties” for adult use and possession is restricted.
And now, Washington, D.C., might decriminalize magic mushrooms.
The Decriminalize Nature D.C. campaign, which seeks to decriminalize “natural entheogenic substances,” recently submitted more than 35,000 signatures for a ballot measure to the D.C. Board of Elections. Initiative 81, the Entheogenic Plant and Fungus Policy Act of 2020, would “make investigation and arrest of adults for … engaging in practices with entheogenic plants and fungi among the lowest law enforcement priorities for the District of Columbia.” The initiative would decriminalize only naturally occurring psychedelics, such as N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT), mescaline (found in peyote), and psilocybin (found in certain mushrooms and truffles). It would not actually reduce any fines or penalties for using or possessing psychedelics, but it would direct law enforcement to focus on more-pressing issues. The initiative also includes a nonbinding call for both the D.C. Attorney General and the federal U.S. Attorney for D.C. to drop prosecutions of people for “non-commercial planting, non-commercial cultivating, purchasing, transporting, distributing” or possessing “entheogenic” plants and fungi.
If at least 25,000 signatures of the signatures collected are verified, voters will decide in November whether to decriminalize magic mushrooms and other “natural entheogenic substances.”
Now, consuming magic mushrooms might be weird, crazy, unhealthy, dangerous, immoral, or addictive; it might even be all of those things and more — but since when is it the business of government at any level to prevent people from doing things that might be weird, crazy, unhealthy, dangerous, immoral, or addictive? That is the real issue.
We are not talking about people who sell or feed magic mushrooms to children or pass off magic mushrooms as regular mushrooms. We are not talking about people who “trip” on magic mushrooms in the middle of a playground or while driving a school bus. We are not talking about people who “trip” on magic mushrooms and harm someone else, commit some act of violence, or violate someone’s property rights. We are talking about consenting adults who consume magic mushrooms on their own property and purchased with their own money. So again, since when is it the business of government at any level to prevent people from doing things that might be weird, crazy, unhealthy, dangerous, immoral, or addictive?
Since some freedom is better than no freedom, when cities make exceptions to their drug laws to allow people within their jurisdictions to consume magic mushrooms, it is always a good thing whether or not consuming magic mushrooms is itself a good thing.
It’s the same way with marijuana. Thirty-three states have legalized the medical use of marijuana and eleven states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana. When states make exceptions to their drug laws to allow people within their jurisdictions to use marijuana it is always a good thing whether or not using marijuana is itself a good thing.
But there shouldn’t have to be any exceptions made by any city or state regarding any drug. All drugs, from magic mushrooms to marijuana to cocaine to heroin should be legal for medical or recreational use regardless of the negative effects to the person using them. It is simply not the business of government to protect people from physically, mentally, or spiritually harming themselves.
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