Entheogenic Substances in Oakland

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Making History with OCHI

Oakland, California is in the midst of attempting to create a framework for the use of entheogenic plants and fungi that emphasizes a compassionate-care community approach. On July 18th, 2020, the ordinance titled Oakland Community Healing Initiative, or OCHI, was submitted to Oakland City Council, which is expected to rule by October 2020. Oakland made history as one of the first American municipalities to decriminalize entheogenic substances last June.

Logistics and Requirements for OCHI

The proposal delves into logistics and variables that envision entheogenic plant use within the community, defining licensed users as either Facilitators or Participants. Furthermore, the proposal is designed to legally protect Participants and Facilitators within the City of Oakland based on their identification with OCHI, and to allow Participants to engage in healing ceremonies led by Facilitators.

Under the proposed ordinance, both Participants and Facilitators must fulfill a series of requirements in order to officially be permitted to participate in OCHI. Facilitators must be:

  • 21 years of age or older, and a resident of Oakland
  • Be recommended by at least one of the community-based organizations affiliated with OCHI
  • Have 5 years of facilitation experience
  • Agree to participate in a public health research and consultation program with OCHI, with frequent reviews
  • Complete an eight-hour training course on the City’s Safe Practice Guidelines and Principles, and pay $250.00 annual registration fee

Requirements for Participants are less stringent. Certified Participants must be Oakland residents, recommended by at least one of the community-based organizations, and complete a four-hour training course. 

Legal Protection for Entheogenic Facilitators and Practitioners

The ordinance also clearly states that the OCHI and the pilot program with the City of Oakland will work to legally protect its Participants and Facilitators. If a Facilitator or Participant were to ever be arrested or charged with cultivation, possession, consumption, manufacturing, distributing, delivering, or transporting of entheogenic substances, they would receive legal representation from the City Attorney’s Office. This representation would be conditional on the Facilitator or Participant in question being registered with OCHI, having not broken any safe practice rules, not engaging with any for-profit activities, and being up to date on relevant OCHI fees.

Another interesting aspect of the proposed legal protection is confidentiality on the part of the City of Oakland regarding any identifying information of facilitators or participants. Simply put, this means that the City of Oakland will not assist the DEA in investigating any OCHI members. 

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First Steps Towards Oakland’s Not-For-Profit Model

In a recent press release, Decriminalize Nature co-founder and Oakland entheogenic community organizer Carlos Plazola states his belief that the current global pandemic and increasing economic disparities are resulting in a widespread and escalating mental health crisis. Specifically, he states members of more disenfranchised communities are less capable of coping with mental health challenges due to financial insecurity. Decriminalize Nature is hoping to develop a not-for-profit approach as a response to the growing number of for-profit psychedelic and entheogenic drug developers in North America.

If the ordinance is adopted by the Oakland City Council, the coming year is expected to see the creation of a task force composed of community-based organizations to evaluate and design community-serving microeconomic models for engaging with entheogenic plants and fungi. Oakland City Council will evaluate the results of OCHI two years after adoption, while leaders of participating community-based organizations will meet for regular reviews. Per their licensing terms, researchers working with the city council may request the presence of licensed Facilitators and Practitioners at these reviews.

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