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Decriminalization of Entheogenic Substances : US Cities To Watch

In November of 2019, Decriminalize Nature, the overarching activist group responsible for spearheading and assisting will all things psychedelic and entheogenic published an exhaustive list of US Cities that are at some stage of the Decriminalization Process. With Denver, Santa Cruz, and Oakland successfully decriminalizing Psychedelics, many cities have attempted to follow suit. The resource was invaluable, but as 8 months have gone by since the release, I wanted to re-visit the resource and see what has happened since. Obviously, COVID-19 has stalled or postponed a lot of these efforts, but from November to March, it is likely that some progress occurred. Instead of focusing on all 100 cities, it seemed more sensible to pick cities where decriminalization is in progress of occurring. For the cities below, decriminalization of psychedelics has likely been presented to City Council at the very minimum. I am to update this list as new developments ensue and eventually add more cities as well.

Chicago, Illinois  

  • Summary: The bill, proposed by Brian Hopkins, aims to decriminalize all substances listed on Schedule 1 of the Federal Schedule. They also plan to adopt a public health and harm reduction approach. It cites Entheogenic Substances  as crucial to developing ones personal and spiritual well-being as well psychological and physical wellbeing. It also cites the prevalence of entheogenic substances to treat a range of mental health issues, which are prevalent in the Chicago area. It also cites the exemption of Entheogenic Substances of religious rituals as crucial in understanding that they are typically not dangerous substances. It also hopes that the decriminalization could aid the opioid and other addiction crises in Chicago. 
  • October 16, 2019
    • Brian Hopkins introduces to City Council and it is referred to Committee on Health and Human Relations 
    • In his presentation, he orders the Chicago Department of Health to review the findings 
  • January 28, 2020
    • Committee on Health and Human Relations had a meeting 
    • Agenda stated to discuss findings from Department of Public Health on feasibility of the motion 
    • Was then deferred by sponsor, Brian Hopkins
  • Key People: Brian Hopkins 
  • Current Status: As of January 2020, it has been held in the Health Committee, likely stalled from COVID-19 
  • Next Steps: Contact Brian Hopkins as to why he deferred the resolution 

Berkeley, California 

  • Summary: Berkeley hopes to decriminalize Entheogenic Plants and Fungi. They aim to see a massive restriction in City Funds in enforcing those for use and possession of the substances. The resolution cites all the medical and health benefits of Entheogenic Substances. It also references how Native Americans have been using the substances for years. It even cites the John Hopkins study. Overall, the resolution is quite persuasive and thorough and hopefully, in a post-COVID world, the resolution will get passed. 
  • July 16, 2019: 
    • Presented to City Council from Rigel Robinson and Cheryl Davila 
  • September 10, 2019
    • Referred to Community Health Commission  
  • February 27, 2020: 
    • Motion passed to create subcommittee on Entheogenic Substances.
  • Key People,: Rigel Robinson,Pamela Speich, Karma Smart, May Simpson  
  • Current Status: Subcommittee formed as of February , no further actions 
  • Next Steps: Will inquire towards sub-committee members on what’s happening since 

Portland, Oregon 

  • Summary: Unlike the Chicago and Berkeley resolutions, the Portland one is more thorough. It claims that Entheogenic Substances have been “immorally criminalized” since the Nixon administration. It mentions Cognitive Liberty and Bodily Autonomy as crucial elements to why these substances should be decriminalized. It hopes that individuals will be able to cultivate the substances for themselves because it states that making them available through the for-profit healthcare system will only create additional and unnecessary barriers. Like the other US Cities, it mentions the plethora of health and therapeutic properties. As well, the Governor of Oregon had previously declared addiction to be a crisis within the state, making the need for these substances even more crucial. Additionally, it mentions the use of the substances currently and historically by Native Americans, proving its harmlessness. 
  • October 30 2019: 
    • Nicholas Combest of Decriminalize Nature Portland presents to City Council 
  • November 2019: 
    • Petition is filed 
  • As of May 2020, 
    • The measure will go through City Council rather than a ballot 
  • As of July 2020
    • They were still in the midst of persuading City Council 
    • Total of 37,638 signatures are required by July 6, 2020
  • Key People: Nicholas Combest
  • Current Status: Will appear on November 3 Election Ballot 

Ann Arbor, Michigan

  • Summary: While no formal resolution or sponsor has been created, Erik Massey of Decriminalize Nature Ann Arbor and Derek Oldman, an Ann Arbor resident spoke about the reasons for decriminalization. Massey honed in on psychedelics as a way to treat depression. Oldman also spoke about the use of these plants for both depression and anxiety. However, and likely due to COVID-19, since the initial March meeting, the topic has yet to be brought up again in a Council agenda.
  • March 2, 2020: 
  • Key People: Jeff Hayner 
  • Current Status: It seems like Jeff Hayner would be the to sponsor the proposal – yet no public actions have occurred since March 

New York (State)

  • Interestingly enough, New York state only aims to decriminalize Psilocybin, rather than a greater number of Psychedelics. It specifies which existing Public Health laws must be modified in order for Psilocybin to be decriminalized.
  • Introduced by a legislator, rather than an activist group 
  • Key People: Linda Rosenthal 
  • Current Status: Has been referred to Health Committee but no further actions 

Port Townsend, Washington 

  • While the timeline of the events is quite clear, the resolution is hard pressed to find. Next steps will be contacting Rebecca Ramsey and the City Clerk to obtain a copy of the resolution.
  • August 15, 2019: 
    • Presented to Jefferson County Board of Health by Rebecca Ramsey of Port Townsend Psychedelic Society 
    • Board had a series of questions 
  • October 17, 2019
    • Following the follow-up questions from the August presentation, Rebecca Ramsey presented a resolution 
    • Greg Brotherthon (District 3 County Commissioner) said he will talk to an Oakland City Council Member where it was successfully decriminalized (likely Neil Gallo)
  • December 12, 2019 
    • Dr. Tom Locke asked the Board how to proceed with the resolution
    • The board referenced RCW 70.05.060, a Washington state bill which specifies the range of powers of  local health boards which would thus allow Jefferson County to decriminalize it within their district 
    • The resolution was expected to be discussed at the next meeting on January 16, 2020
  • January 16, 2020
    • The resolution was not brought up at the meeting 
    • While not specified, following the January meeting, all Health Board meetings revolved around COVID-19 
  • Key People: Rebecca Ramsey, Greg Brotherton, Dr. Tom Locke 
  • Current Status: Seems to be absent from all Board of Health Agendas since December 2019 
  • Next Steps: Inquire about status 

Washington, DC

  • Summary: Like other cities, the DC text discusses the health and medical benefits of Entheogenic Substances. It aims to make it the lowest priority of Municipal Law Enforcement. Interestingly, unlike many cities, it make the minimum age for decriminalization only 18 years old, where most other cities is set at 21. It does not delve into First Nations use, and the depth of medical and health benefits as much as other cities, but nevertheless, is quite persuasive. 
  • December 20, 2019
    • Campaign to Decriminalize Nature DC submitted the original voter initiative text to the DC Board of Elections.
  • February 18, 2020
    • Board of Elections approved voter text. 
  • May 6, 2020
    • Board of Elections approve petition for signature gathering 
    • Petitions were mailed to 220,000 households in Washington, DC 
  • July 6
    • Board of elections receive 36,249 signatures. Only 24,836 were needed. 
  • July 8 
    • Following the news that the petition will be placed on the November ballot, Congressman Andy Harris plan to force vote to block the measure. He plans to hold a House Appropriation Committee vote next week. 
    • UPDATE: July 15, Andy Harris withdraws his amendment to block the measure.
  • November 3, 2020
    • Bill will be placed on Ballot: 
  • Key People: Melissa Lavasani

If any information is inaccurate or additional information can be added, please email jordan@puffdigital.com

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