As California prepares for the legalisation of recreational marijuana in 2018, one man is pushing for the state to become the first to decriminalise magic mushrooms.
Kevin Saunders, a mayoral candidate for the city of Marina, just south of the San Francisco Bay, has filed a proposal that would exempt adults over the age of 21 from any penalties over possessing, growing, selling or transporting psychedelic psilocybin mushrooms.
If he can get 365,880 voter signatures by the end of April 2018, the California Psilocybin Legalization Initiative will be placed on the statewide ballot.
Saunders thinks that now is the right time because, he says, the drug can help bridge the current political divide and restore a sense of community.
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"The world is really hurting and everybody is at a loss about what's going on right now with Trump, Brexit, the refugee crisis and everything else. I'm at a loss at what to do politically, but the only thing I feel like we could do is get psilocybin into more people's hands," he said.
"It deflates the ego and strips down your own walls and defences and allows you to look at yourself in a different light," he said, adding: "It could allow people to figure out what to do and could revolutionise the way we treat those with depression, addiction and cluster headaches."
A profound magic mushroom experience helped Saunders get over a "debilitating five-year heroin addiction" in 2003, when he was 32. "I got to the root of why I made a conscious decision to become a heroin addict; I've been clean almost 15 years."
California is one of eight states where voters have legalised marijuana for recreational use, even though it's still included in the federal government's list of schedule 1 drugs. Saunders and Kitty Merchant, who is co-author of the measure and his fiancee, believe that magic mushrooms – also listed as schedule 1 drugs – are the next logical step.
"I think we have learned a lot from marijuana and we are ready as a society," he said.
So far, they have about 1,000 signatures, but plan to ramp up signature-gathering efforts in early December at college campuses and events like the medical marijuana summit The Emerald Cup. Eighty-five thousand signatures will trigger hearings at the state capitol.