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Spokane, Washington Activists Push City for Psilocybin Decriminalization

Spokane, Washington is looking at decriminalizing psilocybin mushrooms through a ballot initiative that will soon be made available to residents for signatures in support of the movement. 

Local advocacy group Decriminalize Spokane filed agenda 260, titled Initiative Psilocybin Mushroom Decriminalization in February. If approved, it would amend the Spokane Municipal Code allowing the possession, cultivation and personal use of psilocybin mushrooms to adults 21 years and above, and push the federally restricted substance to the city’s ‘lowest possible law enforcement priority.’ 

Besides that, the initiative also demands the prohibition of municipal spending on resources that impose criminal penalties on using or possessing psilocybin mushrooms. At present, possession of psilocybin is a felony offence, and is punishable by up to five years in jail and $10,000 fine.

The language of the initiative proposes a choice to council members to either endorse and amend the existing drug policies, or approve the petition to be presented to the residents of Spokane for public voting. The initiative was scheduled for March 1 in the City Council Meeting agenda, however, the council members chose not to proceed with it, referring the ordinance to city officials to review the language and further it for signature gathering. 

Washington D.C. and Oregon followed similar ballot measures during the November elections in 2020. While the D.C. initiative made possession of psychedelic substances the lowest enforcement priority, Oregon became the first U.S. state to decriminalize simple possession and legalize psychedelic-assisted therapy.

The ordinance advocates for amendments citing recent scientific studies associating psilocybin use with a reduction in psychological distress and suicidal thoughts, as well as a significant decrease in opioid abuse and dependence. 

The ‘Whereas’ section mentions, ‘according to the Global Drug Survey 2017, psilocybin is the safest of all recreational drugs.’

The initiative would require signatures greater than 5 percent of the votes cast in Spokane’s most recent general municipal election. This means the ordinance would require at least 3,477 signatures to be eligible for a public vote, according to a local newspaper. 

The ongoing psychedelic renaissance has continuously gained momentum at the municipal level in the U.S. since Denver’s successful decriminalization vote in 2019. So far, six cities — Ann Arbor, Washington D.C., Somerville, Cambridge, Oakland, and Santa Cruz — have successfully achieved a drug policy reform in their municipalities. Northampton, Massachusetts is likely to be next, with a city council vote scheduled for March 18.

Elsewhere, legislators from multiple states including California, Iowa, Hawaii, and Florida, have put forward similar drug policy reform bills in their state legislatures to amend existing state drug laws.

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