Aspen Lawmakers Shelf Psychedelics Reform

Aspen Lawmakers Shelf Psychedelics Reform Out of Fear of Federal Retribution

The Aspen City Council this week discussed decriminalizing psychedelics like psilocybin because of their therapeutic potential. But members backed off of enacting reform, arguing that legalization would be better handled by Colorado state legislators in Denver as long as those substances remain federally illegal.

Other cities across the country have adopted local measures to deprioritize enforcement of laws against entheogenic and psychedelic plants and fungi. The state of Oregon has legalized psilocybin mushrooms for medical use, and at least for now, possession is now longer a crime in the state of Washington.

“If Aspen moved to loosen restrictions on psychedelics on its own, some worried that could make them targets of federal enforcement”

the author writes

But Aspen legislators discussed psychedelics research and outlined the various policy challenges associated with state and federal prohibition, but took no action. 

“We’re heading in this direction — it’s just research that needs to be done and the groundwork needs to be laid,” one member told the Aspen Daily News.

There was considerable discussion about Denver’s 2019 vote to decriminalize psilocybin. When one member said the council “could take similar actions,” another pointed out that there is no municipal law prohibiting the substance as it stands, and so it would require a state law change to actually decriminalize.

Also, if Aspen moved to loosen restrictions on psychedelics on its own, some worried that could make them targets of federal enforcement.

So instead of moving to independently enact a policy change, members could “informally” express support for “research to see what the benefits of these drugs are and how they can be used in therapy.”

But in the end, there was no direction for council staff to write up a resolution. Several members said it would put too much of a workload on staff, and others noted that formally promoting decriminalization could create complications for law enforcement.

Last year, the Colorado Springs City Council also talked about decriminalizing psychedelics — with the body’s president sharing a personal anecdote about psilocybin treatment for a relative who had cancer — but no action was taken at that meeting, either.

Other cities around the country have taken action. The Northampton, Mass., City Council unanimously adopted a resolution last month to deprioritize enforcement of laws against the possession, use and distribution of a wide range of psychedelics such as psilocybin and ayahuasca.

Two other Massachusetts cities — Somerville and Cambridge — have also moved to effectively decriminalize psychedelics. Outside of that state, four other cities — Oakland, Santa Cruz, Ann Arbor and Washington, D.C. — have also decriminalized possession of plant-and fungi-based psychedelics.

Two other Massachusetts cities — Somerville and Cambridge — have also moved to effectively decriminalize psychedelics. Outside of that state, four other cities — Oakland, Santa Cruz, Ann Arbor and Washington, D.C. — have also decriminalized possession of plant-and fungi-based psychedelics.

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.

After Ann Arbor legislators passed a decriminalization resolution last year, a county prosecutor recently announced that his office will not be pursuing charges over possessing entheogenic plants and fungi — “regardless of the amount at issue.”

At the state level, the Texas House of Representatives approved a bill last week that would require the state to conduct a study into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics like psilocybin and MDMA. And two Senate committees in California recently approved a bill to legalize possession of a wide range of psychedelics and create a working group to study broader reform.

This piece is a part of a content sharing arrangement between The News Station and Marijuana Moment.

Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Los Angeles-based associate editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE, etc.

Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Los Angeles-based associate editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE, etc.

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