It’s essential to understand why advocates like Decriminalize Nature aim for decriminalizing instead of legalizing. A decriminalized status means that people who grow, gather or give away mushrooms won’t be prosecuted. It addresses the failed war on drugs, supports people who use psychedelics for spiritual practices, and, importantly, undercuts the predatory profit of big business.
Many believe that barrier to entry for big business is the only safeguard keeping the psychedelic industry from turning into the marijuana industry, with all its inequity. A 2017 study from Marijuana Business Daily showed that 81% of cannabis business owners and founders were white.
“Prop. 215 was pushed by people who cared about the medical cannabis decriminalization movement,” says Plazola, referring to the 1996 initiative that allowed medicinal marijuana in California. But while decriminalization can help those most in need, he explains, full legalization can open the floodgates for investors. “Prop. 64 raised tons of money,” he says, in reference to the 2016 legislation that legalized recreational cannabis in the Golden State, “but it came with quid pro quos; that’s when the industry got corrupted.”
Another person wary of big money in psychedelics is Reggie Harris. He’s the founder of Oakland Hyphae, a business that advocates for “plant medicine cultivators and enthusiasts.” Harris, an advisory board member of Decriminalize Nature, says it’s a no-brainer that big business would want to get into the psychedelic game once legislation changes.
So, a few months ago, he decided to do something about it.
“For everybody who smokes cannabis, you know, you got the Cannabis Cup or the Emerald Cup,” Harris says. “I felt like it was only right to put a flag down and do the Psilocybin Cup.“
The multi-day virtual conference, held this past April, allowed people from all over the world to connect and discuss entheogens and all they entail. Along with touching on the money issues, the medical side and the legality of it all, the Psilocybin Cup allowed attendees to have the potency of their products tested—which Reggie says is rare, and could potentially change a grower’s fortune.
Prior to the cup, Harris was providing tests for free. His slogan was “if you can get your sample to Oakland, I’ll test it.” Now, Harris says, “the best cultivators are paying me to take samples of their mushrooms and test them.”
Through sharing those test results, Harris says he’s gotten calls from large companies in countries where mushrooms are completely legal. That made him realize the value of being able to identify a quality product.