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Seattle Becomes Largest City To Decriminalize Psychedelics

The Seattle City Council just voted unanimously to allow adult cultivation and consumption of natural psychedelics

Psychedelic Spotlight

Seattle has just become the largest U.S. city to allow adult cultivation and consumption of mushrooms and other psychedelics. The Seattle City Council unanimously passed a resolution Monday to decriminalize non-commercial use around natural psychedelic substances, Marijuana Moment reports.

The Emerald City joins a handful of other enlightened cities in decriminalizing psilocybin and similar substances since Denver kicked off a wave of such changes three years ago.

Police will make it among their lowest priorities to arrest or prosecute anyone in activities related to “entheogens,” reports Bloomberg. That category includes natural substances like psilocybin and ayahuasca, often used for spiritual or religious purposes.

Psilocybin, a mind-altering substance found in magic mushrooms (“shrooms”), is a Schedule I drug, the most-restrictive category.

9th City To Decriminalize Entheogens

Seattle becomes at least the ninth U.S. city to take such landmark action in recent years. It joins Denver, Washington and Ann Arbor, Michigan, among other cities.

In 2020, Oregon became the first state to legalize psilocybin for therapeutic use. 

Seattle Councilmember Andrew Lewis, sponsoring the effort, called it the first step in the city’s move to change drug policies. 

“Our overall goal is to follow the lead of Oregon,” he said before the vote.

“There’s a huge demonstrated potential for these substances to provide cutting-edge treatments for substance abuse, recovery from brain injuries,” Lewis said. “I want to make sure we’re following the science in our policies around regulating these substances.”

Psychedelics ‘Come Back In’

The legal changes come as psilocybin and other drugs have once again been gaining favor with university researchers and consumers. Psychedelics as a safer, more effective alternative to traditional mental health treatments.

Many companies specialize in such entheogenic drugs, with listings on the Canadian Securities Exchange having raised $277 million for such companies since 2020, with many investors wading in.  

Some prominent researchers are now calling for federal change. Separately on Monday, the head of Harvard Law School’s Project on Psychedelics Law and Regulation, Mason Marks, advocated for relaxation of laws around psychedelic drugs. He says the government should do so in order to spur mental health-care innovation.

Marks’ article, published in peer-review journal Nature Medicine, points out that the current status of psilocybin makes it hard to get federal funding for research. That means that private companies currently fund most research and therefore shape public policy, according to Bloomberg.

Federal Policy Equates Psilocybin To Heroin

Psilocybin, as a Schedule I controlled substance, falls in the same category as hard drugs such as heroin. Marks said moving it to a less-restrictive schedule would create “more-inclusive clinical trials and unbiased regulatory review” by the FDA.

“Basically, our position is that rescheduling is the best approach,” Marks said. “It will solve many problems.”,

Seattle’s law would not apply to LSD, ketamine or MDMA. Such drugs are often grouped with plant-based psychedelics and are also gaining popularity with consumers, investors and researchers. A spokesman for the City of Seattle said those substances don’t meet the definition of “living, fresh, dried or processed plant or fungal material, including teas or powders.” 

More than a dozen people called into the city council meeting to voiced their support for the measure. They talked about how psilocybin had helped them to quit smoking, cope with pain and personal trauma and overcome other personal obstacles. One person objected, claiming that drugs warp people’s minds.

Council Wants To Reduce Opioid Deaths

The resolution was inspired in part by the Seattle City Council’s interest in reducing opioid-related deaths, reports Marijuana Moment. Members in June 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.

Meanwhile, members of the advocacy group Decrim Nature Seattle (DNS) has spent more than two years lobbying the council to end penalties for cultivating and sharing psychedelics. In May, the group submitted a draft ordinance to Lewis’s office at the councilmember’s request.

Lewis told Marijuana Moment that he believes “we’re in a position where, I think, we could see movement pretty quickly from the state.” The council member noted he’s received very little blowback from constituents about his own proposal.

Last month, advocates announced a push to put a measure on Washington’s 2022 ballot that would decriminalize all drugs. The measure would also invest state money in treatment and recovery.

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