Another Washington City Moves To Decriminalize Psychedelics, With Unanimous Council Vote
Another city has joined the movement to decriminalize psychedelics, with lawmakers in Port Townsend, Washington unanimously approving a reform resolution on Monday.
The proposal, which was crafted with input from a coalition of psychedelics activists, makes it so enforcement of laws against entheogenic substances like psilocybin, ayahuasca and ibogaine are among the city’s lowest priorities.
It also expresses the support of the City Council for broader decriminalization in Washington State and at the federal level.
Port Townsend “maintains that the abuse of controlled substances should be understood primarily as a public health issue,” the text of the resolution says.
Prior to Monday’s vote, activists with the Port Townsend Psychedelic Society (PTPS) expressed concern about certain language in an initial draft resolution and said they would support potentially tabling the legislation if their proposed amendments weren’t adopted.
That included changing the text to say that enforcement of laws against psychedelics activities for adults is “among the lowest” priorities, rather than just a “low” priority. The revision was adopted by the body.
There was also language added stipulating that the city, to the best of its ability, won’t direct funding to police specifically for entheogen-related enforcement activities.
“After two and a half years working on this issue, we are extremely excited that the City of Port Townsend has passed a resolution supporting the decriminalization of entheogens,” Erin Reading of PTPS told Marijuana Moment after the vote. “We received only support in the passing of this resolution and are grateful for the vibrant community that has congealed around this work.”
“Now, we can focus more of our energy on the other facets of the PT Psychedelic Society which include increasing accessibility to these medicines, providing educational workshops and trainings, developing support structures (such as our monthly integration groups), and strengthening community connections,” she wrote in an email.
The whereas section of the newly adopted measure discusses the therapeutic potential of certain psychedelics, the clinical trials that are underway to investigate their medical value and the reforms that have been enacted in cities across the country.
That includes nearby Seattle, where the city council passed a resolution in October to decriminalize a variety of entheogenic plants and fungi.
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But the psychedelics reform movement is by no means limited to Washington’s borders. Activists have successfully enacted policy changes—and continue to mount new campaigns—around the U.S.
For example, a national advocacy group recently filed two separate psychedelics reform initiatives for Colorado’s 2022 ballot. Voters in the state voters could have the chance to weigh in on legalizing possession and personal cultivation of psychedelics, and creating a system of licensed businesses to produce psilocybin, DMT, ibogaine and mescaline for supervised use at “healing centers.”
The filing comes more than two years after Denver became the first city in the U.S. to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms. Various activists, including those involved in the 2019 campaign, have signaled interest in building upon the reform.
The Colorado initiatives seek to accomplish something similar to what California activists are actively pursuing. California advocates are in the process of collecting signatures for a ballot initiative to legalize psilocybin mushrooms in the state.
Virginia activists have also launched a push to decriminalize a wide range of psychedelics in the Commonwealth, and two state lawmakers recently touted the therapeutic potential of entheogenic substances like psilocybin mushrooms.
Last month, Detroit voters approved a ballot initiative to widely decriminalize psychedelics, making it the latest in a growing number of jurisdictions to enact the reform.
In October, lawmakers in a fourth Massachusetts city, Easthampton, voted in favor of a resolution urging the decriminalization of certain entheogenic substances and other drugs.
The action comes months after the neighboring Northampton City Council passed a resolution stipulating that no government or police funds should be used to enforce laws criminalizing people for using or possessing entheogenic plants and fungi. Elsewhere in Massachusetts, Somerville and Cambridge have also moved to effectively decriminalize psychedelics.
The local measures also express support for two bills introduced in the Massachusetts state legislature this year. One would remove criminal penalties for possession of all currently illicit drugs and the other would establish a task force to study entheogenic substances with the eventual goal of legalizing and regulating the them.
A bill to legalize psychedelics in California advanced through the Senate and two Assembly committees this year before being pulled by the sponsor to buy more time to generate support among lawmakers. The plan is to take up the reform during next year’s second half of the legislative session, and the senator behind the measure says he’s confident it will pass.
In Oakland, the first city where a city council voted to broadly deprioritize criminalization of entheogenic substances, lawmakers approved a follow-up resolution in December that calls for the policy change to be adopted statewide and for local jurisdictions to be allowed to permit healing ceremonies where people could use psychedelics. Activists in the city are also hoping to expand upon the local decriminalization ordinance by creating a community-based model through which people could legally purchase entheogenic substances from local producers.
Earlier this year, Texas enacted a law directing state officials to study psychedelics’ medical value.
The governor of Connecticut signed a bill in June that includes language requiring the state to carry out a study into the therapeutic potential of psilocybin mushrooms.
Oregon voters passed a pair of initiatives last November to legalize psilocybin therapy and decriminalize possession of all drugs. On the local level, activists in Portland are mounting a push to have local lawmakers pass a resolution decriminalizing the cultivation, gifting and ceremonial use of a wide range of psychedelics.
The top Democrat in the Florida Senate filed a bill in September that would require the state to research the medical benefits of psychedelics such as psilocybin and MDMA.
A New York lawmaker introduced a bill in June that would require the state to establish an institute to similarly research the medical value of psychedelics.
The Maine House of Representatives passed a drug decriminalization bill this year, but it later died in the Senate.
In a setback for advocates, the U.S. House of Representatives recently voted against a proposal from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) that would have removed a spending bill rider that advocates say has restricted federal funds for research into Schedule I drugs, including psychedelics such as psilocybin, MDMA and ibogaine. However, it picked up considerably more votes this round than when the congresswoman first introduced it in 2019.
Report provisions of separate, House-passed spending legislation also touch on the need to expand cannabis and psychedelics research. The panel urged the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to support expanded marijuana studies, for example. It further says that federal health agencies should pursue research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics for military veterans suffering from a host of mental health conditions.
There was an attempt by a Republican congressman to attach language into a defense bill that would promote research into psychedelics therapy for active duty military members, but it was not made in order in the House Rules Committee in September.
NIDA also recently announced it’s funding a study into whether psilocybin can help people quit smoking cigarettes.
An official with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also said at a recent congressional hearing that the agency is “very closely” following research into the potential therapeutic benefits of psychedelics like MDMA for military veterans.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), a longstanding champion of marijuana reform in Congress, said in October that he intends to help bring the psychedelics reform movement to Capitol Hill, and he reiterated that point in response to a question from Marijuana Moment on Thursday. The congressman is also circulating a letter to get his colleagues to demand that the Drug Enforcement Administration stop preventing terminal patients from accessing psilocybin as a right-to-try investigational drug.
In May, lawmakers in Congress filed the first-ever legislation to federally decriminalize possession of illicit substances.
A St. Louis lawmaker, meanwhile, said on Tuesday that while he’s heard colleagues discuss the possibility of pushing for psychedelics decriminalization, he’s concerned that enacting the reform may invite federal intervention.
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