Decriminalization vs Legalization & Mushrooms vs Psilocybin

Recent Articles About Decriminalizing and Legalizing Magic Mushrooms

Over the past week, psilocybin “legalization” has received quite a bit of attention.  Yesterday, the International Business Times published an article in the technology section with the headline “California Legalizing Magic Mushrooms? Side Effects Of Psilocybin?” Newsweek recently published a similar story with the headline “PSYCHEDELICS: CALIFORNIA COULD BECOME FIRST STATE TO DECRIMINALIZE MAGIC MUSHROOMS.” reported that “An initiative to legalize Psilocybin, commonly known as magic mushrooms, was cleared to collect signatures for the 2018 ballot.”

The difference between “decriminalization” and “legalization” is important.  Right now, California is moving towards decriminalization.  Although that could logically fall on the path towards legalization, they are not the same thing.

These publications also point to “magic mushrooms” as the subject of decriminalization.  ( contends that the words mean the same thing).  Not true.  The proposed law change would decriminalize psilocybin (a molecule found in magic mushrooms) — whether that molecule is within the mushroom or not.  See below for an earlier post about the difference between psilocybin compared to magic mushrooms.

Decriminalization of Psilocybin

Decriminalizing the drug means that people no longer face criminal penalties for possessing the drug.  Those acts would no longer be considered a crime against the state.  Decriminalization does not mean that people can use drugs freely without consequence.  Rather, decriminalization of psilocybin would mean that possessing small amounts of it would no longer carry the risk of a criminal record or jail time.  Someone caught with psilocybin could still face non-criminal penalties — much like a parking ticket results in a penalty but not a criminal record or jail time.

Legalization of Psilocybin

Legalizing the use or possession of a drug means that consumers face no penalty at all for possession unless it runs afoul with another law.  More importantly, it means that the business side of psilocybin—cultivation, transportation and retailing—is also legal.

California May Have the Opportunity to Vote On Decriminalization (Not Legalization) in 2018.

The Attorney General for the state of California approved a “circulating title and summary” meaning that the proponents of the initiative could begin collecting signatures to get the proposed change to state law onto the ballot next year. If that happens, residents would have the opportunity to vote on the decriminalization of Psilocybin. To get the proposed initiative on the ballot the proponents must collect 365,880 signatures.

According to the California Secretary of State’s website, the proposed initiative (if passed) would “Decriminalize use, possession, sale, transport, or cultivation of psilocybin (a hallucinogenic compound) by persons at least 21 years of age.”  (emphasis added).

This is the exact language (emphasis in original) from the California Secretary of State’s website:

1821. (17-0024)
Decriminalization of Psilocybin. Initiative Statute.
Summary Date: 10/31/17 | Circulation Deadline: 04/30/18 | Signatures Required: 365,880
Proponents: Kevin P. Saunders and Dimitric Merchant (831) 521-1469

Decriminalize use, possession, sale, transport, or cultivation of psilocybin (a hallucinogenic compound) by persons at least 21 years of age. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Reduced costs, not likely to exceed a few million dollars annually, to state and local governments related to enforcing psilocybin related offenses, handling the related criminal cases in the court system, and incarcerating and supervising certain psilocybin offenders. Potential increase in state and local tax revenues, not likely to exceed a couple million dollars annually, related to the production and sale of psilocybin. (17-0024.)

“Psilocybin” not “Mushrooms”

Notably, the proposed law change would decriminalize “psilocybin” not just mushrooms containing psilocybin.  This is also an important point because psilocybin is a molecule and mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of a fungus.  See “Taking Pure Psilocybin is Different from Eating Magic Mushrooms“.  Accordingly, the proposed language would decriminalize pure forms of psilocybin and also psilocybin formulations.  This would be great news for people seeking psilocybin for therapeutic purposes.  Such people would no longer need to seek out mushrooms, which can be difficult to identify or dose.  Those people could seek out precisely dosed formulations instead.

Presently, many media sources are still confusing the terms “psilocybin” and “magic mushrooms.”  For example, The Guardian reported on efforts to make California “the first [state] to decriminalize magic mushrooms.”

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