decriminalization Archives - Green Market Report

Dave HodesAugust 8, 2022


Decriminalization of psychedelics continues to gain momentum in the U.S. It appears to be mirroring cannabis in how it is spreading, which is still a federally illegal substance now legal in 19 states plus the District of Columbia.

But there are moments of real concern about what decriminalization and legalization really mean in the bigger picture of a U.S. drug policy for both of these Drug Enforcement Administration Schedule 1 substances, which at times looks like it’s not much different than those of oppressive regimes around the globe.

Case in point: in the sentencing of U.S. WNBA seven-time All-Star center for the Phoenix Mercury Brittney Griner to nine years in a Russian penal colony for possession of a small quantity of cannabis oil. U.S. lawmakers have expressed outrage, even as their own constituents are still getting routinely locked up for the same offense.

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) Executive Director Erik Altieri released a statement about Griner that read in part that the time for platitudes is over. “The United States government needs to realize the current federal policy of marijuana prohibition and anti-marijuana laws in many states aren’t notably different than the stance held by Putin’s regime in Russia, and take real action to end those failed policies.”

Though the Griner case is about cannabis, there are similar concerns with psychedelics that also demonstrate the failed U.S. drug policy, even as psilocybin and other psychedelics work their way into mainstream medicine, sometimes in states where the harshest penalties for psychedelics possession still exist.

Life Imprisonment

Take Texas for example. According to the Texas Controlled Substances Act, a resident commits an offense if that person knowingly manufactures, delivers, or possesses with intent to deliver LSD—up to life imprisonment (Sec. 481.1121).  Same with ibogaine or mescaline—life (Sec. 481.113).  Same with psilocybin—up to life imprisonment (Sec. 48.113).

Yet Governor Greg Abbott (R-TX), on June 2021, allowed H.B. 1802 authorizing the study of psilocybin, MDMA, and ketamine to become law. Former Texas governor Rick Perry, an admitted “very anti-drug person,” called the bill “one of the most hopeful pieces of legislation that the members of the legislature have the opportunity to consider this session.”

And in Michigan, anyone using or possessing LSD, peyote, mescaline, or psilocybin can be found guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 6 months, or a fine of not more than $500, or both. Yet Detroit passed Proposal E in November 2021, to decriminalize entheogenic plants (further defined as “magic mushrooms in the proposal) and fungi. More than 61 percent of voters supported the measure, with nearly 39 percent of voters opposed it, according to the city of Detroit’s unofficial election results. The Ann Arbor Michigan City Council had unanimously adopted a decriminalization resolution earlier, on September 21, 2020.

But even where psilocybin and some other psychedelics have been decriminalized, there is still a criminal attachment to it that some legislators feel obliged to include as a sort of nod to the DEA.

New Jersey reclassified possession of psilocybin in December 2020, as a “disorderly persons offense,” punishable by up to up to six months imprisonment, a fine of up to $1,000, or both, and is considering a more comprehensive bill, S2934, which authorizes production and use of psilocybin to promote health and wellness; and decriminalizes and expunges past offenses involving psilocybin production, possession, use, and distribution.


Denver, the first city to decriminalize psilocybin, passed an initiative that called for the enforcement of any laws imposing criminal penalties for the personal use and personal possession of psilocybin mushrooms “shall be the lowest law enforcement priority in the City and County of Denver.” Oakland used the same phrase with its decrim Resolution No. 87731. So did Santa Cruz with its decrim Resolution No. NS-29,867. So did Detroit.

What that phrase means, exactly, is still a bit murky, and seems to be loosely defined by the whims of law enforcement, as was discovered with cannabis legalization in some areas when that phrase is left to their interpretation.

And that leads to the question: Is it time for the federal government to step in and provide real guidance, and some clarity, to psychedelics—instead of relying on a patchwork of confusing rules created by city councils and state legislatures?

Leading psychedelic advocates discussed issues in creating federal psychedelic policy during a panel at the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School in April against the backdrop of the “psychedelics renaissance” in the U.S.

It was noted that, though many localities have made significant strides in addressing the legal questions surrounding psychedelic substances such as psilocybin and dimethyltryptamine (DMT), federal policymakers have not pursued similar initiatives.

For panelist Micah Haskell-Hoehl, founder of Healing Equity and Liberation (HEAL), working to create a justice framework for psychedelic decriminalization, regulation, and healing, an effective federal psychedelic policy is high stakes and requires bold action. “There’s no low-hanging fruit when it comes to federal psychedelic policy,” he said.

He said that he favors federal policy modeled after state legalization statutes, such as Oregon’s Ballot Measure 109

“A sort of lofty, longer-term, ideal goal would be federal decriminalization across the board of all drugs and the people who use them, and an attendant accounting for and repair of drug war harms and colonization,” he said.

But that brings up yet another side to the decriminalization discussion—psychedelic exceptionalism, an ideology that could be created by the decriminalization of psilocybin, for example, while keeping other drugs illegal.

Psychedelic decriminalization benefits people who only use psychedelics. “Psychedelic reform is essential to the larger goal of ending the War on Drugs, but as drug policy and social justice activists, we must be wary of the beliefs and stigma that psychedelic-only legislation can perpetuate,” according to the blog on the website of Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

So here we are today. A drug scheduling policy in the U.S. that outlaws psychedelic substances because they have no medicinal use, yet are turning out to be some of the best medicines for some of the oldest uncurable, untreatable human conditions. A 50-year-old “war on drugs” still oppresses people of color while states attempt to fix those disparities.

Maybe now, because of the global spotlight that Griner’s case has put on the drug policy issue, the increasingly sturdy science behind psychedelics, and the decriminalization movement gaining more traction across the country, we are reaching a critical mass to finally bring better medicine to help heal the country’s mental health needs. Maybe.

Adam JacksonJuly 25, 2022


This week Washington D.C. has brought cannabis back for more discussion. There are two different hearings and both could center around social equity issues that have proven difficult to tackle even at the state level. 

First up, Congressional lawmakers will look to discuss social equity provisions within marijuana legalization at a Senate Judiciary subcommittee – chaired by U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) – at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Decriminalizing Cannabis

 While details are scarce, the hearing – titled “Decriminalizing Cannabis at the Federal Level: Necessary Steps to Address Past Harms.” – will presumably hash out social equity initiatives in the newly filed Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA) before it hits the Senate floor. The hearing announcement came only a day before Booker, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, (D-NY), and Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, (D-OR) filed their comprehensive pot package. HELP Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and HSGAC Committee Chairman Gary Peters (D-MI) also co-sponsored the legislation.

 The bill is a revised update to the draft version Schumer unveiled last year, with provisions to remove cannabis from the federal list of controlled substances and empower states to implement their own cannabis laws. And since the draft’s introduction last year, a wide range of constituencies – including lawmakers on both aisles, advocates and stakeholders – have actively provided input to the terms of the package.

“Last September, we shared detailed comments on the public draft of the CAO Act, including our specific concerns about key aspects of the legislation,” said U.S. Cannabis Council CEO Steven Hawkin. “The U.S. Cannabis Council still shares those concerns and believes it is critical to get the details right on America’s transition to legal, fully regulated cannabis. We welcome robust hearings in the coming days that fully consider key concerns around regulation, taxation, equity and responsible use.

 “The detailed policy conversations happening around the CAO Act should not distract us from its historic nature. At the same time, the ambitious and sweeping nature of the bill should not distract Congress from advancing limited yet critical reforms, such as expungement and the SAFE Banking Act, that are immediately within reach.”

 According to Booker, the legislation establishes a federal regulatory framework to protect public health and safety, prioritizes restorative and economic justice to help undo the decades of harm caused by the failed War on Drugs, ends discrimination in the provision of federal benefits based on cannabis use, provides major investments for cannabis research and strengthens worker protections. And by decriminalizing cannabis at the federal level, the CAOA also ensures that state-legal cannabis businesses or those in adjacent industries will no longer be denied access to bank accounts or financial services simply because of their ties to cannabis, the release said.

Examining Hemp

Also in the pipeline this week, members of a House Agriculture Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research will meet on Thursday to further discuss federal hemp regulation in a hearing, titled, “An Examination of the USDA Hemp Production Program.”

The specifics are not clear, though House Agriculture Committee chairman, Rep. David Scott (D-GA) said in February that he believes the next Farm Bill should act beyond the scope of hemp to include social equity provisions related to marijuana itself, such as removing industry barriers for Black entrepreneurs and small operators.

“We’ve got to address this issue,” Scott told Roll Call at the time. “We can no longer hide it.”

Additionally, Marijuana Moment reported that House Appropriations Committee leaders recently released spending legislation for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) calling for multiagency coordination to create guidance on hemp manufacturing. The legislation also recommends that the USDA partners with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to resolve concerns about enforcement actions for hemp that exceeds the 0.3% THC limit during extract processing.

 The Congressional Research Service (CRS) also said in a March report that Congress should address industry concerns about the lack of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations for hemp-derived CBD products in the food supply.

Industry leaders have historically taken the position of supporting social equity in marijuana decriminalization. Here’s what one said in response to the bill introduction:

Mark Lozzi, CEO of Confia said, “We are hopeful about the newly introduced legalization bill, which includes social equity provisions. Until we have a solid system in place through legalization, including non-predatory banking opportunities, we will continue to see distrust of our industry, while compounding the challenges of transparency, regulation, and oversight. Social equity is a crucial part of cannabis legalization, and no business or individual deserves to be left behind.

Dave HodesJuly 19, 2022


It seems like every other week or so, another city or state is working on the decriminalization of psychedelics. In fact, the whole country is virtually awash in legislative action related to reforms about psychedelics. 

It’s been an active three years, with no slowdown in sight for 2022.

Denver decriminalized psychedelics in May 2019; Oakland, California did it in June 2019; Santa Cruz, California in January 2020; Washington, D.C. in November 2020; Somerville, Massachusetts in January 2021; Cambridge, Massachusetts in February 2021; Northhampton, Massachusetts in March 2021; Easthampton, Massachusetts in October 2021; Ann Arbor, in September 2020; New Jersey, in February 2021; and Seattle did it in October 2021

Some states are still looking into various other approaches to decriminalization, such as Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Washington.

Decriminalization Fails

And some decriminalization efforts just haven’t worked so far, such as the decriminalization bill introduced in late January by Virginia lawmakers, Del. Dawn Adams (D), and Sen. Ghazala Hashmi (D) along with Sen. Jennifer Boysko (D) that was voted down and now sits in a committee for consideration in 2023. 

Or the decriminalization bill filed by a 21-year-old Kansas lawmaker in January that died in committee in May. 

Similar bills failed in Maine, Chicago, Michigan, New York, Ohio, and West Virginia.

But New York is working on legislation to establish the psychedelic research institute and developing a psychedelic substances therapeutic research program; plus a new bill (the first failed in May 2020)  to decriminalize psilocybin, noting that “many cities, including Denver, Colorado, Santa Cruz, California, and Oakland, California, have already decriminalized the use and possession of psilocybin, and New York should do the same.”

Colorado is going one step further, aiming to become the second state to legalize psilocybin (after Oregon did it in November 2020) with the Natural Medicine Health Act of 2022 (Initiative 58), to be voted on in November, which, if approved, would begin rule-making by January 2024. Legalizing ibogaine and DMT could follow, through with an advisory board that the initiative proposes.

All of that action is part of an evolving drug reform policy first fired up by cannabis advocates around 1996, resulting in the Compassionate Use Act in California that went on to help legalize medical cannabis. Now more advocacy groups for psychedelics are rising up.

For example, the Drug Policy Alliance created a Psychedelic Justice Campaign to protect—and expand—the safety, wellness, and freedom of people who can benefit from psychedelics with three goals: Exposing and overcoming ongoing barriers to scientific and medical research; Changing the conversation about how psychedelics are perceived and managed; Eliminating the role of criminalization in psychedelic drug policy and repairing the harms of psychedelic prohibition.

Federal Level

The DPA has gone one step further with the introduction of the Drug Policy Reform Act of 2021, H.R. 420, introduced in June 2021 (with no additional action as of this date). One stated finding: “While drug decriminalization cannot fully repair our broken and oppressive criminal legal system or the harms of an unregulated drug market, shifting from absolute prohibition to drug decriminalization helps restore individual liberty, protect against some police abuses, better assist those in need, and save tax dollars.” 

The DPA act wants the secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a “Commission on Substance Use, Health, and Safety” consisting of people with current or past substance use needs and qualified persons in the fields of general and behavioral healthcare, harm reduction, and substance use disorder treatment.

Also in June, responding to a May inquiry by Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) about the current state of psychedelics studies, the director of the National Institute of Mental Health, Dr. Joshua Gordon, and the director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, Nora Volkow, wrote that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has worked closely with the FDA, DEA, and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy on a proposed framework to facilitate the process of obtaining a DEA registration to conduct research with controlled substances, including psychedelics. Other details of the NIH work were explained.

But there’s more. 

Other organizations are jumping into the decriminalization and legalization fray to offer their take on what is going on. One example is the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics, at Harvard Law School, which is engaged in a three-year initiative to examine the ethical, legal, and social implications of psychedelics research, commerce, and therapeutics that was launched in summer 2021. 

Graham Boyd, co-founder and executive director of the Psychedelic Science Funders Collaborative, which is a community of philanthropists supporting psychedelic medicine and science. Boyd, speaking at the summer 2021 launch event for the collaborative, helped understand the true aim of decriminalization. He said that there really isn’t a legal impediment to ending the arrest of people who use psychedelics. “It’s a political one,” Boyd said. “Each state has the power to change its law, and municipalities have the power to instruct their police to deprioritize arresting people who use psychedelics. Politically there are some very serious obstacles, but legally there is not.”

Dave HodesMay 23, 2022


There has been an accelerating movement to decriminalize psychedelics, especially psilocybin, since May 2019, when Denver, Colorado became the first city in the country to decriminalize psilocybin through an initiative, in essence handing a small but significant defeat to the operatives running the War on Drugs. 

The War on Drugs has been an ongoing battle since it was begun by former president Richard Nixon in 1971 after various psychedelics (and cannabis) were listed as the worst drugs for human consumption by the Controlled Substance Act (CSA)—which has since been used as a government-approved source to create social injustice involving psychedelics.

Now the movement to decriminalize psychedelics has resulted in a deeper dive into the fabric of society as a movement for not just social justice, but for individual liberties, and even a different way of thinking that psychedelics provides (called cognitive flexibility) which could change how humans interact with each other in a positive way.

The decriminalization movement has continued over the last couple of years, with many resolutions, initiatives, or measures either directly or indirectly addressing the War on Drugs as their decriminalization rationale: Oakland in June, 2019, with a resolution; Santa Cruz in January, 2020 with a resolution; Ann Arbor, Michigan in September, 2020 with Policy 2021-06; Washington D.C. in November 2020 with Initiative 81; Somerville, Massachusetts in January, 2021 with a resolution; Cambridge, Massachusetts in February, 2021 with a resolution, which cited decriminalization as an effort to defeat the War on Drugs; Northhampton, Massachusetts in March, 2021 with Resolution R21.207; East Hampton, Massachusetts in October, 2021 with a resolution; Seattle in October, 2021 with Resolution 32021; Arcata, California in October, 2021 with Resolution 212-17; Detroit in November, 2021 with Proposal E; and Port Townsend, Washington in December, 2021 with a resolution, also referencing their decriminalization was an effort to end elements of the War on Drugs. 

The Port of Townsend included statements in its resolution that effectively decriminalizing entheogens (psilcocybin) “aligns with local values of personal freedom, connection to the natural world, social justice and reform of harmful societal structures/practices, seeking creative solutions to longstanding community challenges, progressive free-thinking, and alternative living (including in the realms of education, medicine, therapy, and healing).”

Efforts to decriminalize continue in New York, Vermont, California, Utah, Missouri, Connecticut, New Jersey, Texas, Florida and Hawaii.

Oregon went a step beyond decriminalization by legalizing psilocybin for therapeutic use with Measure 109 on November 4, 2020. Creating rules and reviewing licenses for legalized psilocybin in Oregon is expected to take awhile.

While the immediate effects of decriminalization so far have been to encourage more cities and states to examine and/or enact decriminalization, there is more going on here. As some of the city and state decriminalization resolutions have demonstrated, decriminalization has become a megaphone for advocates working to finally defeat the War on Drugs.

Decriminalization is a step forward from a policy standpoint, according to an article in the Lewis and Clark Review by Dustin Marlan, the assistant professor of law at the University of Massachusetts School of Law. It eliminates the “virtual or total loss of liberty imposed” under CSA prohibition. Decriminalization cuts down on arrests, imprisonments, and wasteful law enforcement practices, and “thus represents a realistic and pragmatic step toward ending the prohibition on psychedelics.”

Marlan wrote that the effects of psychedelic drugs could go beyond the relatively small and inconsistent effects of pharmaceuticals in healthy subjects, because they not only produce improvements in mood, but may also give access to states of consciousness and insights of great significance even after a single dose. “In doing so, psychedelic drugs may cater to a human need for meaning, connectedness and purpose; needs which it may be argued are widely overlooked in Western, individualistic cultures,” he wrote. “Indeed, psychedelics operate differently from modern medicine in that they provide users with powerful mystical or psychological experiences which can act as catalysts for changes in thought patterns and behavior.”

Charlotte Walsh, a legal academic at the University of Leicester School of Law, in discussing psychedelic law reform and reimagining psychedelic drug policy in the United Kingdom through a human rights prism, believes that “individuals should have the right to autonomous self-determination over their own brain chemistry, a right that is currently infringed by the prohibition of psychedelics.”

She wrote that, beyond the courts, it is recommended that a liberal, rights-based approach also inform psychedelic drug policy activism, moving past the current predominant focus on harm reduction, towards a prioritization of benefit maximization. “How this might translate in to a different regulatory model for psychedelic drugs, a third way, distinct from the traditional criminal and medical systems of control, is (under discussion).

“Whether or not it is believed that people should have to justify their psychedelic use on any grounds is bound up with one’s view of the proper relationship between the individual and the state, with whether or not it is believed that the latter has any business concerning itself with which substances the former choose to ingest,” Walsh wrote.

The power of psychedelics, and therefore the promise of decriminalization, is that it literally changes how people think. It changes lives in a powerful, profound way. And, hopefully, the good outcomes being reported in psychedelic clinical trials will change what more lawmakers think about it.

The War on Drugs is not over by a long shot. In fact, it continues today, as demonstrated by the recent incident with the mostly black Delaware University women’s lacrosse team on April 20th in Georgia. The team bus was pulled over by a group of white highway patrol officers for a traffic stop that quickly turned into a drug search of all of the team member’s luggage. A narcotics dog was brought in. No tickets were issued, no one was arrested. But the incident reeked of a war-on-drugs, guilty-until-proven-innocent profile incident. 

In a joint statement, Delaware U.S. Senators Tom Carper (D-Del) and Chris Coons (D-Del), along with U.S. Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester (D) termed the situation “deeply disturbing.” Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings called on the justice department to investigate.

But there is also a negative public sentiment about psychedelics to deal with, based on the long-standing stigma of psychedelics that the War on Drugs created and continues to reinforce. According to a Hill/HarrisX poll conducted in May, 2021, 65 percent of voters say psychedelic substances “do not have medical use.” 

But it’s a different story if you suffer from some form of mental illness. A more recent Harris Poll reported in January, 2022, that nearly two thirds of Americans who suffer from anxiety/depression/PTSD (65%) believe that psychedelic medicine (such as ketamine, psilocybin and MDMA) should be made available to patients with treatment-resistant anxiety, depression or PTSD.

Decriminalizing psychedelics has become the driving force to address the nearly one in five U.S. adults who live with a mental illness—52.9 million people in 2020. Experts predict even more mental illness cases to come as a result of the pandemic. If there was ever a moment in time for a new, better way to treat mental health, it’s now. All that remains to be done is finding the legal route to build acceptance of psychedelics-assisted mental health therapy, through or around whatever obstacles still stand in the way.

Emerson BrownOctober 23, 2017


On October 11, Atlanta City Mayor Kasim Reed signed an ordinance that decriminalized marijuana sending a powerful statement to state lawmakers. Georgia has some of the most punishing marijuana laws in the country and according to a 2013 American Civil Liberties Union study, blacks were 3.7 times more likely to be arrested than whites in the state and that number had increased 71% from 2001 to 2010.Georgia also ranked number four for the highest number of marijuana arrests for black people in the country.

So what’s next for Atlanta? Marijuana is still illegal, but based upon ordinance 17-0-1152 section 106, the perception of marijuana has changed when it comes to the amount less than an ounce. Yes, a whole 28 grams. It sounds minor but this is a major statement for the city of Atlanta and its surrounding counties and states. See, an ounce of marijuana has a street value of $25 to $450 depending on its quality and your location within the United States. But this ordinance is about Atlanta, the home of southern high-end luxury and cannabis consumers willing to spend big bucks in the illegal market.

So what’s this new ordinance all about? First off, it reduces the possession penalty to $75 and you will not receive any jail time within the city limits of Atlanta, which does include some parts of DeKalb, Fulton and Cobb County. But since the law has always controlled the lesser man there are still some foggy areas surrounding this new ordinance. One of those concerns that come to mind is, what can happen when a person is dealing with a police officer other than a city of Atlanta officer when in possession of marijuana because under this new ordinance a state trooper can still send you to state court with a criminal conviction. While a city officer can send you to Atlanta city court and you will not have a criminal conviction.

Secondly, with marijuana being very proximate and heavily promoted among millennials, what’s the deal when it comes to college campuses, At schools like Georgia Tech, Georgia State, Morehouse, and Spellman, campus police still work for the state, not the city of Atlanta. So situations like this are still up in the air and will continue to give off a big what if and huge why is that, going forward.

Also, it is still illegal to be under the influence of marijuana and drive behind the wheel of a vehicle. and with this new ordinance, the Atlanta police are still able to use discretion to arrest someone in possession. And you better not have any other charges along with a possession of less than an ounce, like fleeing from an officer because you will be taken into custody

So with marijuana still being illegal but attaching to it weaker possession penalties, families will continue to be fed, money will continue to rain down in nightclubs and automobiles will continue to be bought.

It will also save the state money. The ACLU study found that in 2010 the state of Georgia spent $58 million on police to enforce marijuana possession, $44 million on judicial and legal costs and $19 million on corrections. It is in the top ten list of states for spending the most on marijuana enforcement.

So with that being said, this new ordinance towards marijuana has set a new tone and direction for Atlanta but we must admit many areas are still unknown. But one thing this new ordinance is telling us is that those in authority do know people in Atlanta possess marijuana. So smoke on, but be safe and remember Atlanta isn’t California yet!

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