Carlos Plazola, a Bay Area native raised in a Chicano family, didn’t discover the world of plant medicines until the age of 50. After several years of utilizing exercise, meditation and yoga to cope with the loss of his mother and having only modest success, he read Michael Pollan’s “How to Change Your Mind” and his eyes were opened to the potential for mushrooms to help him process and come to terms with the trauma he was suffering.
Plazola has never done anything in his life in a small way. When he wanted to expand his horizons and develop a sense of what life was all about, he spent three months living as a hunter-gatherer in the rainforest at the young age of just 23. So, when he tried mushrooms for the first time, he consumed five grams and locked himself in his bedroom. Given that three-and-a-half grams is considered a macro-dose, a five gram dose is more than likely to be life-altering.
And that’s exactly what happened.
Plazola’s experience was so powerful and so transformative, he describes his life in terms of before and after that journey. “Before that journey, I didn’t even know what spirituality was. Now I’m fully spiritual as a result of that.”
Since that time, he has dedicated his life to aiding in the plant medicine movement, founding Decriminalize Nature with the goal of developing and implementing legislation that protects these anointed compounds and ensures safe access for all those who want to partake in their use. For Plazola, the progression of plant medicine is not about legalization, it’s about decriminalization. There’s a stark difference – the former implying illegality outside of a set of prescribed rules, and the latter implying legality until you enter a set of prescribed rules.
“Decriminalizing Cannabis completely would mean anyone can grow as much as they want for themselves, their friends – as long as they don’t engage in any commercial activity,” Plazola explains. Given that context, one understands that Cannabis has been legalized, not decriminalized.
From Plazola’s perspective, choosing legalization as the avenue to free the Cannabis plant was the wrong one. Plazola himself was a former legislator and lobbyist turned Cannabis industry proponent, and played a significant role in bringing Prop 64 into fruition here in California.
“I should have known better,” he lamented. “There was this beautiful healing component of it in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and then all these people came in and said, ‘Hey cities, you can legalize this by taxing it, and look at all this profit you are going to make.’ And then it became about the money and taxation – that’s what’s happened in Cannabis.”
“We understand what we did wrong in Cannabis, we want to do it right in plant medicines,” he emphasized.
And therein lies the overall goal of Decriminalize Nature – to decriminalize all plant medicines and create the opportunity for anyone who wants to have their own relationship with these special plants.
“We want to hold space for the healing component of it – not lose it. We’re not against profiteering, we’re not against clinical and medical, but at least hold space for the community component and the healing component,” said Plazola.
Since 2019, Plazola and the team at Decriminalize Nature have successfully passed legislation in Santa Cruz, Calif., Ann Arbor, Mich., Somerville, Mass. and Washington D.C., and are actively working with legislators in Grand Rapids, Mich., Salt Lake City, Utah, Seattle and several others across the country to do the same there.
To learn more about Plazola and the Decriminalize Nature organization, head to www.decriminalizenature.org.