Friday, January 29, 2021

Local Group Pushes to Decriminalize ‘Magic Mushrooms’

Posted By on Fri, Jan 29, 2021 at 1:03 PM

click to enlarge PSILO/FACEBOOK
  • Psilo/Facebook

Psilocybin mushrooms, sometimes called magic mushrooms, have achieved “breakthrough therapy” status from the federal government as a depression treatment, and a local group is working to decriminalize the drug in Memphis.

Memphis-based Psilo issued a petition last month in an effort to convince Memphis City Council members to pass a resolution “to decriminalize the possession of psilocybin-containing mushrooms and begin a psilocybin task force.”

In 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave psilocybin its formal “breakthrough therapy” designation for the possible treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD). The process intends to speed the development and review of drugs for serious conditions that show big improvements over drugs now available.

However, psilocybin is still a Schedule I drug in the U.S., alongside heroin and peyote, and, as such, is considered a higher risk than opioids and meth. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) says Schedule I drugs have no medical use and are highly addictive.

For mushrooms, the DEA says they can cause panic, “psychotic-like” episodes, and the inability to discern fantasy from reality. In the long term, the DEA says mushrooms can cause psychosis and even death. For all of this, possession of mushrooms in Tennessee can earn a prison sentence from two years to life.
Carlos Ochoa, executive director of Psilo, said psilocybin is found naturally and can be found in 20 miles of any direction from Shelby County. He fears FDA approval of psilocybin, though, may push costs of the drugs out of reach for many, and gathering your own could still come with jail time.

“Only the wealthy will be able to afford this medicine unless Memphians do what’s right,” Ochoa said on the Psilo website. “Psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy will cost patients [thousands of dollars] with synthetic psilocybin. Meanwhile, possession of psilocybin-containing mushrooms will still be considered a felony, which could lead to fines and prison time.”

Globally, psilocybin laws are a patchwork, legal in places like Jamaica, the Netherlands, and Brazil but illegal in Australia, Canada, and South Africa. A number of cities across the U.S. have recently decriminalized psilocybin, including Denver, Santa Cruz, and in Somerville, Massachusetts, a Boston suburb, just earlier this month.

The resolution passed in Somerville says “entheogenic plants,” like magic mushrooms can treat ailments like substance abuse, depression, and post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD). Decriminalization there is hoped to fight against the rise of opioid overdose deaths. It’s also hoped to calm the “War on Drugs,” which has “led to the unnecessary penalization, arrest, and incarceration of vulnerable people, particularly people of color and people of limited financial means.”

Still, changing the minds of lawmakers, especially conservative Tennessee state lawmakers, could be a tall order. Cannabis reform has tried and failed before the Tennessee General Assembly for years. Lawmakers there trumped a city council resolution in 2019 to decriminalize cannabis possession here.

However, Ochoa takes the cannabis and psilocybin movements separately, especially given the serious clinical attention given to mushrooms at the moment. For him, the time to act is now, and the place to act is Memphis.

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