(Photo courtesy of psychedelic times.com)

The Oakland City Council will soon make a decision about whether it wants to decriminalize the possession and use of certain plants that have psychoactive properties.

The proposal to direct Oakland police to regard the adult use of so-called entheogenic plants and fungi as being among the department’s lowest priorities cleared a key hurdle May 28 when the city’s public safety committee voted to send it to the full council for consideration.

In a hearing room packed with the proposal’s supporters, committee members praised the effort to decriminalize the plants, including “magic” mushrooms, citing their potential clinical and public health benefits.

“We need more resources to be able to address … the varied health needs that our communities face,” Councilwoman Nikki Fortunato Bas said.

Bas noted the potential benefits to mental health and hospice patients, which many of the proposal’s supporters extolled during the hearing.

The plants in question include “mushrooms, cacti, iboga containing plants and/or extracted combinations of plants similar to Ayahuasca; and limited to those containing the following types of compounds: indole amines, tryptamines, phenethylamines,” according to a city report on the proposal.

Julie Megler, a registered nurse, told the committee that due to chronic medical conditions that impacted her “emotional well-being,” she traveled to Mexico and Peru in order to take advantage of traditional treatments that include the use ofplants.

“They forever changed my life and they helped me in a way that Western medicine failed,” Megler said. “These plants and fungi do not cause harm like substances like cocaine and heroin.”

Megler gave her comments during a presentation by members and supporters of Decriminalize Nature Oakland, which sponsored the proposal brought forward by Councilman Noel Gallo.

Gary Kono said the substances are safe and effective and help ease the anxiety of hospice patients who are “facing their ultimate journey: death.”

“More people die from taking selfies for their social media than from all these entheogenics combined,” Kono said. “We advocate Oaklanders to just grow whatever they want in their own gardens without fear of arrest, with no middle man, no doctor prescription, with no need for a dispensary.”

The proposal still needs approval of the full City Council, which will take up the matter at its June 4 meeting.

Kiley Russell writes primarily for Local News Matters on issues related to equity and the environment. A Bay Area native, he has lived most of his life in Oakland. He studied journalism at San Francisco State University, worked for the Associated Press and the former Contra Costa Times, among other outlets. He has covered everything from state legislatures, local governments, federal and state courts, crime, growth and development, political campaigns of various stripes, wildfires and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.