California initiative would legalize psychedelic mushrooms

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The Hill Reid Wilson 8\30\17

California would become the first state in the nation to legalize psychedelic mushrooms if a long-shot ballot initiative passes muster with voters next year.

The measure is backed by a legalization activist who says he kicked his heroin habit with the help of a mushroom trip in Death Valley. It would exempt Californians over the age of 21 from a state law that criminalizes mushrooms containing psilocybin, the compound that gives some mushrooms psychedelic properties.

“There is a cultural fascination with mushrooms that goes really deep,” said Kevin Saunders, the activist behind the initiative. “The soccer moms are all pretty much, for lack of a better term, high now, and some of them are taking mushrooms.”

Saunders filed his measure with the office of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) on Friday. Becerra’s office will review the initiative’s proposed language before issuing a ballot title and formal summary of the measure.

Once Becerra’s office takes those steps, supporters will be cleared to begin circulating petitions.

Psilocybin is a Schedule 1 substance under federal law, meaning it is ripe for potential abuse and has no widely accepted medical use. Other Schedule 1 drugs include heroin, LSD, ecstasy and bath salts.

Marijuana is still included on the federal government’s list of Schedule 1 drugs, even though dozens of states have approved its use for medical purposes. California is one of eight states where voters have legalized marijuana for recreational use, and Saunders said legalizing psilocybin-bearing mushrooms is the logical next step.

But the hurdle for gaining ballot access is steep: To qualify, supporters will have to turn in more than 365,000 valid signatures of California voters, a difficult undertaking for even a well-funded campaign.

Saunders said he will solicit donations from Hollywood celebrities and wealthy Silicon Valley tech entrepreneurs. The campaign is hiring organizers on California college campuses, and it plans to approach district attorneys from some more liberal jurisdictions for support.

Saunders, who is running for mayor of the small coastal community of Marina, said he believes psilocybin-laced mushrooms could have been transported to earth by an asteroid.

“What I think we’re dealing with possibly is alien contact,” Saunders said in an interview. “It may be some sort of communication from an advanced society, to reprogram us, to reprogram our souls or mind. I think this could be the next big awakening.”

The psilocybin legalization measure is one of 20 that Becerra’s office is reviewing before they begin circulating ahead of next year’s vote. Other proposed measures would make abortion a crime, split California into three different states, and restore the right to vote for felons who have completed their sentences.

Seven ballot measures have been cleared for circulation, including one that will ask voters whether California should secede from the union. Two measures dealing with taxes and revenues have already been placed on the June 2018 ballot, after the legislature referred those measures to voters.

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