Advocates for a world — or at least a state — where possessing and using certain plants, fungi or their psychedelic compounds isn’t illegal made headway in Michigan this Nov. 2 election.
Detroit became the latest city to “decriminalize nature,” as supporters call it. Proposal E, a ballot initiative passed with 61% of voters supporting a law that will, “to the fullest extent permitted under Michigan law,” make “the personal possession and therapeutic use of entheogenic plants by adults the city’s lowest law-enforcement priority.”
The proposal instructs Detroit police not to enforce laws related to adult possession or use of entheogenic substances, which according to the Decriminalize Michigan website, include: “mushrooms, cacti, iboga containing plants and/or extracted combinations of plants similar to Ayahuasca; and limited to those containing the following types of compounds: indole amines, tryptamines, phenethylamines.”
“Obviously, we are excited by the amazing turnout of Detroit voters last night and we’re overwhelmed by the support for prop E,” said Decriminalize Nature Michigan co-Director Myc Williams. “This is the momentum we needed to keep going,”
It’s not clear how this impacts federal enforcement or collaboration, since most entheogenic substances, alongside marijuana, remain Schedule 1 drugs. By the federal definition, that means they are drugs that have “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”
Starting at the local level with decriminalization before launching a statewide ballot proposal is a political road similar to the one marijuana drove to commercial legalization; however, Decriminalize Nature Michigan doesn’t want the same “corporate takeover” that’s occurred in Michigan’s multi-billion-dollar marijuana industry.
“We really want to avoid the medical model,” Williams said. “Medical models are not equitable and not accessible, so we’re really focusing on the spiritual and ancestral applications of these plants, rather than the medical application as has happened with cannabis.”
The law does not decriminalize the sale of the currently illegal drugs.
Decriminalize Nature Ann Arbor in 2020 helped convince Ann Arbor City Council to similarly decriminalize certain natural psychedelic drugs, meaning police are instructed not to spend taxpayer money or resources on investigating possession or private production for noncommercial use.
Following the Ann Arbor vote, Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit said his office would not prosecute for possession of magic mushrooms or other natural entheogenic drugs and would support expungement of old criminal convictions arising from entheogenic-plant offenses.
The Grand Rapids City Commission stopped short of approving a similar resolution there in September. Unlike the resolution and change of city policy passed by Ann Arbor, the Grand Rapids measure does not outline support or law enforcement deprioritization for those who plant, cultivate, purchase, transport or distribute entheogens.
Decriminalization resolutions are expected to be presented by early 2022 in East Lansing, Lansing and Hazel Park, Williams said, and new local Decriminalize Nature chapters are being formed in Traverse City, Ypsilanti and Flint.
Senators Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, and Adam Hollier, D-Detroit, sponsored Senate Bill 631, that would decriminalize the use and possession of certain naturally occurring psychedlic drugs statewide. It’s been lingering in the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee without being brought up for public comment or a vote since Sept. 2.
But passage by the state Legislature may not be necessary.
“It’s an uphill battle, but we are and have been since the beginning, formed as a ballot committee,” Williams said, “so I wouldn’t count a 2022 (statewide) ballot initiative out of the question.”
Decriminalize Michigan chapters are planning celebratory events in Detroit Wednesday and have a fundraiser scheduled in Grand Rapids.
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