THIS, is an important story to share.
One man's experience here in Australia, found to be in possession of a substance that many of us are familiar with, and many of us use ourselves; for self-discovery, healing, exploration, growth, and transformation.
With permission, and with some very minor editing, Daniel Witham has given the all clear for his story to be republished, which was originally shared on his personal social media channel.
Since escaping jail time and essentially becoming a fugitive, Daniel has spoken at various events, has worked in with politicians, is an active member for many HR (harm reduction) and drug reform groups, and and has become a voice of reason and knowledge to hundreds of people.
Illuminating the current reality of drug prohibition, in particular, the laws around psychedelics, is an urgent and significant issue to highlight.
That is why I'm posting this here.
This is Daniel's story...
Long term jail sentences for psilocybin mushrooms in Australia.
Hi friends, today I want to discuss the topic of drug law reform, the laws around psilocybin mushrooms and other related psychedelic compounds.
I also wish to share with you my story of being punished VERY harshly for a small amount of Psilocybe Subaeurginosa.
I'm a fugitive of NSW due to these unethical laws, hence my warning to you all.
In June 2015, I was charged with 28.3 dry grams of Psilocybe Subaeurginosa (with a bag weight of 5 grams that was included in this total amount) in New South Wales, Australia.
The seriously indictable amount of mushrooms in NSW is 25 grams, with a 25 year sentence. You instantly have "knowingly distributing/intent to distribute" charges added to such an offence, with zero evidence needed for this, other than the amount being labelled as commercial.
I was pulled over for a blown headlight on the Newell Highway in far North-West NSW on my way to QLD from VIC. My vehicle was searched, due to previous minor drugs charges.
The police found a bag containing 23 grams of dried Subaeurginosa mushrooms in the side pocket of a sports bag. They had been there for 18+ months and I missed them while packing. I was only aware of a small amount of cannabis in my possession, until shown the mushrooms during this search to my absolute dismay!
I'm an otherwise law-abiding-citizen and family man, with no desire to harm others or break reasonable, ethical laws.
Within hours of my arrest, I was sent straight to:
- Moree prison for 3 nights
- Tamworth prison remand center for 4 weeks
- Cessnock supermax remand for 3 weeks
LUCKILY, I got bail on medical grounds, due to an issue with a recent left hand operation.
The only reason that I'm free to write this post, was an excruciatingly painful, post operative cyst that was basically ignored by medical staff inside prison.
Once I got across the border to my home state after ten weeks bail in Moree, I was forced to make the hardest decision of my life:
Return to face a long sentence - up to 25 years, OR, forever be a fugitive of NSW; never having a passport again unless a miracle change in these laws occurs.
All for possessing native fungi which I use for healing.
I would have walked free for many times that amount of heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine, because the seriously indictable amount of these compounds is 250 grams. TEN times the seriously indictable amount of mushrooms in NSW!
The local judge, prosecution, and police, had no idea about psychedelic compounds and the law, until prosecuting my case. Many police, prison guards (also known as screws), and solicitors were dumbfounded that I was facing harsher penalties than committing rape, murder, kidnap and even major drug importations for under an ounce of anything.
Let alone dry native fungi with roughly 1% active alkaloids (that are actually charged as pure alkaloids!!! I can't be extradited unless I commit a serious or federal offence (which is so not my thing).
Getting a decent job easily with NSW fugitive on your record is not gonna happen, period.
There are ramifications even for those who want to employ me, as it may void insurance if a theft or other issue occurs on the premises (insurance companies could/would use employee records to not pay out).
The ramifications of being incarcerated for a victimless crime are endless. So much so that I can only write a book on my experience and spend many hours to explain even a fraction of it all.
What's it like to be incarcerated in one of the worst prisons in NSW?
In prison, I saw the most sickening drug use, corruption and abuse of fellow human beings in my life.
People injecting methadone vomited up and filtered through a sock, or at best, a suboxone strip that had only been in the mouth for a few minutes.
Of course, the common street drugs such as cannabis, methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin and pharmaceuticals were mostly coming in from those who run the system.
Have you ever seen the same syringe shared between 20 men every day for weeks?
I hadn't. Until I was arrested for mushrooms.
Ever had medical attention withheld?
I hadn't. Until I was arrested for mushrooms.
Ever been bashed for food, toothpaste, tobacco or clothing?
I hadn't. Until I was arrested for mushrooms.
No one deserves loss of liberty for possession of any amount of any substance in my opinion. All I could do was watch my back while reading, meditating, and laughing inside at the cosmic joke that was prison time for dried native fungi.
I was incarcerated in one of the worst corrupt prisons in NSW.
In mid-winter, outdoor showers are to be used in your freezing 8-9am yard time. Water was purposely a couple of degrees ABOVE comfortably hot, and you had to crouch down to shower or you'd be red from head to waist! (It hurt me to shower while crouched down and I'm only 5'6!)
There was no indoor heating so your room is only a few degrees above outside temp. The average night was around 7 degrees Celsius (44 degrees Fahrenheit) inside, and it got to -5 outside some nights, so it was well below fridge temperature in my cell.
It was so cold that I wore both sets of clothes, was forced to steal two blankets to make a total of four; three over my body and one wrapped around my head every night.
I still shivered between 15-60min sleeps throughout the night.
I thought the loss of freedom was your punishment, but at Tamworth, you felt like and were treated like a convict.
I was amazed that you could be incarcerated for such small amounts of mushrooms and even more amazed by the outdated hell hole that is Tamworth prison. I thought such a prison couldn't exist in Australia because it violated so many human rights. The conditions and treatment were worse than the loss of freedom!
Seriously, getting moved to Cessnock supermax remand after 4 weeks was a fucking holiday!
Showers in your cell at a decent temperature. Cell mates didn't have to watch each other shit due to a divider wall (also, the toilet is right beside your bed at Tamworth).
At night, it was above 10 degrees celicus (and commonly 15ish) inside Cessnock prison.
The prison staff weren't nearly as sadistic or corrupt as Tamworth. There were no places where CCTV or a 'screw' couldn't see you, other than in your cell.
It was far safer than Tamworth, not having to watch out for getting bashed or stabbed for food, tobacco, underwear, and other menial things if you stood in the wrong spot in the yard or shower blocks...
The cannabis wasn't as good in Cessnock, but cheaper and more plentiful, and it was mostly quiet at night, meaning I slept for 3 hours straight for the first time in over a month. Cessnock was full of methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin of high purity. It was nice to not have to see sock filtered methadone vomit and suboxone strips injected in front of me all day, like in Tamworth.
Most users weren't sharing injecting equipment, or were just not injecting at all, due to highly available, high purity street drugs flooding the entire prison.
It was so traumatizing that it took until late last 2017 - early 2018 to feel 70% myself, let alone consider legally tackling it again.
Healing the prison-induced trauma from psychedelic incarceration... with psychedelics.
After prison, I just needed to heal myself; reconnecting with family and friends to get my life back on track as much as possible before anything else.
I had to relearn to not be on guard 24/7, and to stop pretending to look and be someone not to fuck with, as you had to be tough in there, or get picked on VERY harshly.
This was extremely hard for such a passive, open minded, non-confrontational and happy person like myself.
I had to relearn to sleep well after getting so used to broken sleep from the freezing cold, the noise of people fighting and yelling at night, as well as the 'screws' making noise if it got too quiet; just to mess with you for a giggle on their boring high paid night shift.
I had to heal from the terrible processed food they pump you with, after rarely eating any such food for a decade before.
I had to reconnect with my daughter who turned 1 while I was inside, and basically forgot who I was! She's 3 as of last Sunday, and our connection is stronger than ever!
An endless trauma list for a victimless offence.
I'm lucky I didn't just tune out completely while pumping myself with depressants, instead of pushing myself to get well after my release.
The urge was overwhelming to escape with such substances, and I did; for a long time. A breakfast, lunch and dinner of flunitrazepam (rohypnol), heroin, and other downers was my escape for many months to hide from this terrifying experience.
How ironic that it was the use of various psychedelic compounds that helped me heal. I never would have been able to get through, and over, that trauma without them.
I decided to ingest 28.3 dry grams, and film it; to prove that this was not necessarily a commercial quantity and that it didn't fall under the charges of "intent to distribute". (There was no intentions or evidence of sale or intent to, I let them look through my phone I was so clean at the time and was infuriated that they added such charges).
So I took the dose I was charged with, ABOVE the actual amount; to show it can be safely taken in the right setting, that it's not a commercial dose, and that I only use them to heal myself.
I teach others to identify and use these things online, and in workshops, but have never sold or given these things out. I don't need to. All I need to do to spread mushrooms, is spread my knowledge.
Not sell them or hand them out.
I never EVER wanted to be in the spotlight for anything to do with drugs, even though I'm all for reform. I believe most of us are in this position, whether we use them, or just know these laws don't work.
My hand has been forced by my systematic abuse by the system to take one for the team; to be open about my experience and hope that one day it has something to do with eventually changing these unethical and deadly laws.
I've been part of the HR movement and spreading proper drug education for over a decade before my arrest. The realization of our drug law fallacy was smashed in my face by seeing people like members of parliament and police use drugs, the many harms of legal drugs, plus the carnage caused by prohibition by age 15. I'm currently 31.
I'm sick of seeing people die as the result of drug law.
I hate knowing there's an untaxed billion dollar black market out there that could be stopped over night with reform. I know crime for drugs has nothing to do with the drug, and only that it's illegality makes it a lucrative trade.
I'm sick of stories of substituted substances as fairly safe drugs like MDMA, that hurt or kill people all as result of prohibition.
I'm hurting for the hurt children, families and friends, hurt directly and indirectly by these inhumane laws.
I'm done with mass manipulation of populations to continue this cruellest of treatments under the bullshit, completely disproven guise of safety, and I'm happy to defend and debate for us all. With or without anyone's support.
I would go to jail for life to see my fellow beings set free of this madness. This isn't about me. This is about every single person affected by these laws eg. EVERYONE...
Drug use is not an issue for the law.
The science speaks for itself. Drug use is not an issue for the law. Especially therapeutic use of psychedelics, which has been the norm since recorded history, until very recently in time.
Right now I'm putting some decent time between the event, and any attempts to have it dealt with legally again, while getting all the legal info and other support that I can to tackle this head on. I'm constantly spreading awareness and the positives of such substances to everyone from drug users to uninformed parents, grandparents, politicians, police, and the over-the-top punishment by law enforcement.
I'm going to be working with law reformists and harm reductionists more and more in future, and ask you all to support this effort in any way possible.
Most police and drug law supporters agree that psychedelics are over penalised. Especially when you compare them to charges given for similar weights of habit forming and toxic scheduled substances.
Most police speaking off the record don't like processing so called 'criminals' with 'drugs' far safer than alcohol. Especially plant, cacti and fungi based alkaloids.
Psilocybin mushrooms were recently recognized as the safest illegal drug on earth, with even less hospital admissions per capita world-wide than cannabis.
Cannabis anxiety (usually from high THC/low CBD strains) sends more people to hospital seeking help, compared to this potent, yet very safe psychedelic compound.
The recent massive shift in public perception of psychedelics as healing tools, being non-addictive and not physically dangerous, compared to a very short time ago, could see major upcoming changes in the law if we speak up and show a large percentage of the voting base in support of ethical laws and treatment of all human beings.
I believe even a hefty monetary fine is over the top for 23 grams of Psilocybin mushrooms. Not to mention my ability to easily earn enough to pay a hefty fine is inhibited by my criminal record from this experience.
I've more than paid for it emotionally, physically and monetarily.
I've paid more than any fine with my treatment at Tamworth prison, and my father James lost $10,000 on bail-surety and other things when I skipped to VIC. I hate on myself every day for that, because I can't currently pay him back and see no way to do so in the near future.
Not that he urgently wants the money, I just feel bad about it and forever indebted as any decent human would.
Add another $10,000 for the couple of months that I spent on bail in Moree before getting bailed back to my home state of VIC, for food, accommodation, and having my daughter and my ex-partner stay with me in Moree.
If the laws don't change, I'll be a fugitive for life, or at best, heavily penalised ex-parte.
I'm not going back to jail.
No one deserves jail for any amount of any substance. The real criminals and money makers from all of this are obvious:
Governments clean up from private prisons, fines, and cheap labour (paying people only $70 per week to work full time in prison, while they're actually hired out for $1000+ for that weeks work).
Solicitors love easy cases, as do police, judges and prosecution. I caught my solicitor chatting about when he'll next play golf with prosecution members in Moree, just to rub in how tight-knit and close they all are.
Making money from illegal drugs is big business from many angles. There's a lot of comfortable jobs at stake, with a lot of big importers sponsoring governing bodies with donations.
Nothing to do with health or public welfare. These laws make rich people richer, pick on minorities and under/middle classes. Its all about the money and control of what we do.
Corrupt from top to bottom.
Keep up the good fight my friends. I'm not stopping until this injustice ends and we all need to speak up about this issue on all available platforms while lobbying government for change.
This path has been magical. It's the wake-up call I needed to get into the role I need to be in, not hiding my knowledge and not working for the man.
Thank you all for your support, input and encouragement. It means more to me than I can put into words. And thanks again to all the psychedelic-induced states of ecstasy, and my beautiful support network, for healing me and putting me on the right track.
You know who you are, and I love you all!
- Daniel Witham, 2018.
If you're not familiar with this site, it's all about the use of various sacred earth medicines and psychedelics for the purposes of self-discovery, exploration, healing, growth and transformation. Even though these substances have a long history of traditional and indigenous use, some dating back many thousands of years, it's important to remember that we live in a day and age where a lot of these substances are primarily NOT socially or culturally accepted.
Prohibition is real. Incarceration is real. And things like this do happen.
Daniel was one of the lucky one's, escaping jail-time to tell his tale and become a spokesman for drug law reform and the safe and responsible use of various substances. There are many other's who aren't as lucky. Innocent people locked up for outdated, nonsensical laws.
It's incredibly important to know what the laws are around these substances in your hometown, your state, your country, or the place where you're planning to use them. That's IF you're planning on using them. And if you do, please do your research to ensure that you are coming from a place of safety, responsibility, and maturity.
Let's continue to hold mature discussions about these issues and topics, and continue to encourage others to step out of the psychedelic closet.
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