Seattle decriminalize psychedelics

Seattle Is the Largest U.S. City to Decriminalize Psychedelics

Seattle’s City Council approved a resolution on Monday to decriminalize non-commercial activity around a wide range of psychedelic substances, including the cultivation and sharing of psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca, ibogaine and non-peyote-derived mescaline.

The landmark measure extends what is already Seattle city policy not to arrest or prosecute people for personal drug possession to further protect the cultivation and sharing of psychedelic plants and fungi for “religious, spiritual, healing or personal growth practices.”

“This resolution really sets the stage as the first significant action in the state of Washington to move this policy forward.”

Andrew Lewis

The legislation, passed by a unanimous vote, declares “that the investigation, arrest and prosecution of anyone engaging in entheogen-related activities should be among the city of Seattle’s lowest enforcement priorities” and requests the city’s police department to “move toward the formal codification and adoption of that practice as departmental policy.”

Furthermore, it expresses the council’s intent “to determine what changes would be necessary to protect from arrest or prosecution individuals who cultivate entheogens,” and to make those changes through a subsequent ordinance.

“These nonaddictive natural substances have real potential in clinical and therapeutic settings to make a really significant difference in people’s lives,” Councilmember Andrew Lewis, who introduced the resolution, said before the vote. “This resolution really sets the stage as the first significant action in the state of Washington to move this policy forward.”

“Entheogens, commonly known as psychedelics, have been shown to benefit the well-being of individuals suffering from depression, severe anxiety, problematic substance use, post-traumatic stress, end-of-life anxiety, grief and intergenerational trauma,” a news release from the councilman’s office stated. “These and other physical and mental conditions are plaguing many communities, which have been further demonstrated to be exacerbated by the impact of COVID-19.”

The resolution was inspired in part by the city council’s interest in reducing opioid-related deaths. In June, members formally asked a local task force studying the overdose crisis to examine “public policy governing psychedelic medicines.” Three months later, the task force recommended the city decriminalize psychedelics and consider removing criminal penalties around all drugs.

“Many people are waking up to the fact that the War on Drugs leads to unnecessary incarceration, impedes access to profoundly effective medicine and impinges on both religious freedom and personal liberty.”

Kody Zalewski

Members of the advocacy group Decrim Nature Seattle (DNS) have spent more than two years lobbying the council to end penalties for cultivating and sharing psychedelics.

The city is now the largest in the country to pass a decriminalization measure. “We’re happy that our years of effort have paid off in making this a reality,” Kody Zalewski, DNS co-director and chair of policy and research, said. “This is only the very beginning of conducting a much larger push to expand access to psychedelic medicine across Washington state, and codifying the intent of this resolution via citywide ordinance.”

“Public opinion is changing, and many people are waking up to the fact that the War on Drugs leads to unnecessary incarceration, impedes access to profoundly effective medicine and impinges on both religious freedom and personal liberty,” Zalewski continued. “Social progress rarely happens through sweeping changes, but rather occurs from winning one small battle at a time.”

Tatiana Luz Quintana, the group’s co-director and co-chair of education and outreach, stressed the importance of crafting local and state policy around psychedelics that guarantees access for marginalized and oppressed groups, for example, by including the right to grow and share psychedelic plants with other adults. Home cultivation of marijuana, by contrast, remains illegal in Washington state.

“While we have been following in the footsteps of cannabis decriminalization, we must reflect on the policies that fell short,” Quintana said. “Creating equitable access to psychedelics must be at the forefront of how we continue to move this legislation forward.”

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

Ben Adlin is a Seattle-based writer and editor. He has covered cannabis as a journalist since 2011, most recently as a senior news editor for Leafly.

Ben Adlin is a Seattle-based writer and editor. He has covered cannabis as a journalist since 2011, most recently as a senior news editor for Leafly.

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