Niko Summers — a 5th generation healer and cultivator in San Francisco — discovered the healing properties of plants early on in his childhood.
“The first time my mom took me out to the garden, I was five and what they were learning about me was in order to deal with my trauma and the things that had happened, plants were really healing,” said Summers. “As an herbalist and as someone that also wants to help people, I’ve just learned that helping myself first has been the main key in being able to do that.”
Now as an adult, Summers has used microdoses of psilocybin mushrooms with a mixture of other medicinal mushrooms, like Lion’s Mane, to help with his mood.
“I found that microdosing was something that was incredibly helpful,” said Summers. “It helped with communication, helped with anxiety and depression, and it just hit a lot of the things on the board that I was trying to work through. And so I found refuge in that. “
While Summers has found a way to heal himself, psilocybin mushrooms are illegal but have been decriminalized in some California cities, and are a low priority for law enforcement in others. In San Francisco, movements like Decriminalize Nature SF, are still working toward this.
Due to this, access is limited and underground.
“I think as time has progressed, there has been more publicity and openness around the topics of microdosing and using small amounts of psychedelics or different things to help heal. But again, that’s a very small community that is aware of this,” said Summers. “How do we open the conversation so that everybody can have access to this and not feel like there is a stigma or a drug use or this negative connotation with the plant medicine that they’re using”
One group that is advocating for access nationwide is Decriminalize Nature. This Oakland based organization, led by Carlos Plazola (Chair of the Board of Decriminalize Nature National), is working on an ordinance for cultivators like Summers to grow and sell in their community with the “Go-Local” initiative.
“The whole Go local initiative had the BIPOC community in mind, because when we talk about gaining access or how do we enable access for the most marginalized people to participate in the economy of plant medicine?” said Plazola. “We’re going to go local and support our local people to realize their values. So 99 percent of the value creation stays local, which means that people of color and the BIPOC community get access to the value creation first and foremost. But any community that’s local does. And then the corporations can have the one percent that’s left over. If we choose to let them.”
Plazola and his team plan to present this ordinance to Oakland City Council this year. The goal is for other cities to follow in protecting BIPOC cultivators like Summers.
“What I hope for in the future is decriminalization and de-stigmatization. This gray area of plant medicine, because I think once we really drop that, it opens up into this really amazing possibility for healing,” said Summers.
While the legalities of psychedelics get sorted, Summers has created a tincture of medicinal mushrooms that is aimed to help with focusing. The Scarlet Sage Herb Co. on Valencia Street carries this and other natural herbs and remedies for those interested in part-taking without the hallucinogenic effects.