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Port Townsend, Washington Votes to Make Natural Psychedelics Use its Lowest Law Enforcement Priority

The small city of Port Townsend, Washington, has become the latest municipality in the United States to end arrests for naturally occurring psychedelics — also referred to as entheogens — after a City Council vote on Monday. 

Resolution 21-088 declared that the investigation, arrest, and prosecution of adults engaging in entheogen-related activities should be among the lowest enforcement priorities for the City of Port Townsend, while also stating the City Council’s support for full decriminalization of these activities at the state and federal level.

The activist effort at the local level was spearheaded by the Port Townsend Psychedelic Society, who have been working to bring a decriminalization decision before the city council since 2019, and had engaged in significant consultation on the language of the legislation.

The summary statement of the Port Townsend resolution read that “Psychedelics show promise in treating depression, anxiety, and substance abuse, according to an article by Peter Grinspoon, MD, published on the Harvard Health blog on June 22, 2021. In October 2021, the National Institute of Health awarded John Hopkins Medicine a grant to study the impacts of psilocybin on tobacco addiction. According to the John Hopkins Press Release, this is the first time in fifty years the NIH has funded research into the therapeutic use of psychedelics. This resolution shows the City’s support for furthering that research.”

While unanimous, the results of the vote for Port Townsend — a small Washington State city with a population of around 10,000 — did come with some expected caveats.

Use of psychedelics by and distribution to individuals under the age of 18 remains illegal. The resolution also included specific language indicating that it was not within the City’s power to withhold law enforcement funds relating to entheogens, given that such budget allocations were within the purview of the local Jefferson County authorities. “The City does not track funds to any specific type of enforcement. The City pays Jefferson County a flat rate for criminal justice services, and the Jefferson County prosecutor has discretion in determining the charges in any particular case.”

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In addition, the resolution clarified that these measures would apply only to naturally occurring psychedelic use committed in “a nonpublic place.”

The city council of Seattle, Washington similarly voted to decriminalize possession of naturally occurring psychedelics in October. Detroit, Michigan was the next major American city to follow suit in early November.

At press time, the Port Townsend Psychedelic Society had not responded to a request for comment.

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