Psychedelic Decriminalization Gains Traction At City, State Level

In addition to California, Oregon & Washington state hot spots, at least 21 other states are stepping up discussions about decriminalization.

The decriminalization of psilocybin and other psychedelics decriminalized quickly has become one of the defining efforts of the psychedelics renaissance this year. It began in Denver in May 2019, and it’s been slowly picking up speed since.

It’s also evolved. More of the decriminalization efforts taking place now aren’t just about psilocybin. It’s becoming more about entheogenic substances – better known as psychoactive plant substances. For example, Initiative 81, the Entheogenic Plant and Fungus Policy Act of 2020, passed by overwhelming voter support in Washington DC in November 2020.

The decriminalization movement is setting up a somewhat confusing structure for the future of psychedelics. Cities are establishing their own psychedelics rules, while the states where some of these cities are located often are looking to set up their own programs.

And there is a race shaping up to be the first state to legalize recreational use of psilocybin, as both Colorado, Oregon and Washington begin to explore the limits of lawmakers’ tolerance for broader action balanced against what their constituents have already approved.

Let’s take a look of the hotspot locations where decriminalization is under serious consideration to help understand what is going on now.

City: San Francisco – The San Francisco Board of Supervisors just voted to decriminalize entheogenic plants, including a “full spectrum of plants, fungi and natural materials that can inspire personal and spiritual well-being, can benefit psychological and physical wellness, and can reestablish human’s inalienable and direct relationship to nature.”

The resolution explicitly spells out that it is decriminalizing psilocybin, ibogaine, ayahuasca and mescaline. There will still be a penalty for possession and use, but it will be among the “lowest priority” for arrest, according to the Sept. 6 resolution. Oakland (via Resolution 87731CMS in June 2019) and Santa Cruz (via Resolution NS-29,867 in September 2021) preciously passed decriminalization measures as well.

State: California – The state legislature already started the conversation around the decriminalization of personal possession of small amounts of seven psychedelic substances for adults through California State Senate Bill No. 519, introduced by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) in 2021. That bill is currently pending before the California Legislature. SB 519 is co-sponsored by combat veteran service organizations Heroic Hearts Project and Veterans Exploring Treatment Solutions (VETS). How the recent San Francisco decriminalization movement will affect the state’s actions is still a question that legislators are discussing, but the support of Heroic Hearts Project and VETS is viewed as a serious boost to any of its future legislative actions.

City: Detroit – Detroit voters overwhelmingly approved Proposal E, a citizen’s ballot initiative in November 2021, to decriminalize the possession and therapeutic use of entheogenic plants, including psilocybin, peyote and ibogaine. Detroit became the second largest U.S. city to decriminalize the possession and therapeutic use of entheogenic plants.

State: Michigan – The Michigan Decriminalization of Psilocybin Mushrooms and Other Plants and Fungi Initiative may appear on the ballot in Michigan as a citizen-initiated state statute in November 2024. Separate from that initiative, the state legislature is considering SB 631, introduced by Senator Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) and Adam Hollier (D-Detroit) last September, that would decriminalize DMT, ibogaine, mescaline and psilocybin. Ann Arbor decriminalized entheogenic plants in September 2021, with the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office issuing a detailed directive discussing the context, rationale and public policy supporting its decision to support and adopt the city’s policy. Several other communities are also undertaking decriminalization efforts, including:

  • Grand Rapids
  • Detroit suburbs of Hazel Park and Madison Heights
  • The state’s capital city, Lansing, and neighboring college town East Lansing
  • Upstate tourist destination Traverse City
  • Ypsilanti, which neighbors Ann Arbor
  • Flint

City: Seattle – In October 2021, Seattle became the largest city (population 762,687) to decriminalize psychoactive plant substances with a resolution unanimously approved by the city council. That measure declared that the investigation, arrest and prosecution of anyone engaging in entheogen-related activities should be among Seattle’s lowest law enforcement priorities. It also expressed the council’s support for full decriminalization.

State: Washington – Seattle therapist Leo Russell submitted ballot initiative measure number 1886 in February to essentially legalize psilocybin, going a step beyond similar legislation passed in Oregon in November 2020 (Measure 109).

The latest initiative would allow licensed persons to provide psilocybin products and services to persons 21 and older and require state agencies to license and regulate the manufacture, sale and use of psilocybin. Under 1886, anyone over 21 can purchase a microdose of psilocybin after a brief preparation session with a facilitator and then take it with them for consumption at their leisure rather than sitting in a pseudo-clinical setting being monitored before and after the psilocybin dose has worn off before being allowed to leave the facility where the purchase was made, as specified in Oregon’s Measure 109.

Washington’s 1886 has been viewed as one of the more progressive – and controversial – rules about selling and consuming psychedelics in the country.

Several other states are also undertaking conversations in this vein. Colorado is in the hunt to go all legal through the whole state with a flurry of initiatives this year, including Initiative 58, which would allow individuals over 21 to obtain access to “natural medicines” at “healing centers.” The term “natural medicine” includes DMT, ibogaine and mescaline (excluding peyote). On July 21, 2022, Initiative 58 received enough signatures to qualify for the 2022 general election ballot.

Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii and at least 17 other U.S. states also are stepping up their legislatures’ discussions about decriminalizing various psychedelics. Massachusetts is banking on the decriminalization efforts of four of its cities to drive its full state efforts. Other states, such as Utah, are still in the earlier stages of investigation.

Dave Hodes

David Hodes is a business journalist based in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. He has contributed feature articles to several cannabis and psychedelics publications, as well as general business/lifestyle publications, on a variety of topics. Hodes was selected as 2018 Journalist of the Year by Americans for Safe Access. He is a member of the National Press Club, and the deputy booking agent for the National Press Club Headliners Committee.


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