On Monday, October 4, 2021 Seattle’s City Council unanimously approved a resolution to decriminalize noncommercial activity around a wide range of psychedelic substances, “including the cultivation and sharing of psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca, ibogaine and non-peyote-derived mescaline”.
The resolution which was sponsored by Councilmember Andrew Lewis is limited to natural substances like psilocybin and ayahuasca and does not include manufactured psychedelics like LSD or peyote due to the need for further information and disagreements but this is a start for the largest city in the country to date to make entheogens the lowest possible law enforcement priority. It doesn’t mean they are legal per se, it just means the cops are not putting shrooms on top of their “to-do” list. The text to the resolution is here.
What is noteworthy are the reasons for the legislation. In addition to the medicinal properties to quote Lewis, “these non-addictive natural substances have real potential in clinical and therapeutic settings to make a really significant difference in people’s lives,” the legislation says these entheogens are sacred to many cultures.
Additionally, the legislation says entheogens are sacred to many cultures and spiritual practices and have been for centuries, but the current Seattle Police Department (SPD) policy does not protect those participating in these cultural activities from being arrested.
This legislation opens the door to the greater conversation of using psychedelics safely and legally as a companion to spiritual and religious practices.
A psychedelic trip can be among the most sacred experiences of a person’s life. And yet, that impulse to take a psychedelic for a spiritual reason is often overlooked as a reason to lift prohibition for psychedelic substances.
But the question remains: For those who incorporate psychedelics into their contemporary practice of a well-established religion, is there legal protection to do so? And if not, could pursuing religious protection be yet another route to ending prohibition?
In terms of rank Seattle is just a bit larger than D.C. which decriminalized magic mushrooms last fall.
DC Initiative 81, which passed with overwhelming support last fall, goes into effect Monday, March 15. Under the Entheogenic Plant and Fungus Policy Act of 2020, natural psychedelics including magic mushrooms, ayahuasca, and mescaline are decriminalized, making arrests for their possession or use the lowest priority for DC police.
If size really matters a whole state could eclipse a city with Oregon being the first and only state with the most liberal drug laws.
Additionally, we must give a big nod to Scott Weiner for his hard work on California’s SB-519 to legalize psychedelics which is halted till next year. Maybe Seattle’s move will give the naysayers in California a push.
A bill that would have decriminalized several psychedelic drugs in California such as LSD, ecstasy, and psilocybin “magic” mushrooms was put on hold Thursday until next year after it failed to garner enough support in the Assembly to pass it. Senate Bill 519, authored by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), would “decriminalize” dimethyltryptamine (DMT), ibogaine (psychedelic substance), lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), mescaline (psychedelic hallucinogen), psilocybin (magic mushrooms), and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, ecstasy, molly) possession for personal use and social sharing.
And if SB-519 does not make it then California has a back-up or alternative that is gathering signatures now. The measure titled the California Psilocybin Initiative “would allow the “personal, medical, therapeutic, religious, spiritual, and dietary use of Psilocybin Mushrooms” for adults 21 and older. Further, the initiative would allow for the cultivation, retail sale, social sharing and on-site consumption of the psychedelic”.
A special nod to the Arcata City Council, the third California city to effectively decriminalize psychedelics just days ago.
Around the country there are other bills, measures, and resolutions that have been introduced to study the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics.
In 2021, Connecticut and Texas approved bills that launched working groups to study the medical use of psilocybin. In Texas, MDMA and Ketamine are also being studied for the same purpose, with military veterans as the main target group for these therapies.
A similar resolution to study the therapeutic potential of psilocybin was introduced in Hawaii, where a separate senate bill to deschedule psilocybin is also under consideration. In an interview, Hawaii Senator Stanley Chang told us that the goal of the bill is to remove psilocybin and psilocin from the list of Schedule I substances and require Hawaii’s Department of Health to establish treatment centers for the therapeutic administration of these compounds.
In Florida a bill was introduced but died in the senate.
In New York Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal “has introduced a bill that would require the state to research the therapeutic effects of psychedelic substances”. The bill would establish a psychedelic research institute and a therapeutic research program to study and provide recommendations on the use of psychedelic substances in the treatment of addictive disorders, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, end-of-life anxiety and other ailments.
In conclusion it seems that bigger is not better. What is better is more. The more states, cities and counties that climb on the psychedelic decriminalization and legalization train the sooner we as a society will get past this archaic war on drugs.
Author: Sherri Margolin (Dark Matters)