Detroit residents voted to decriminalize entheogenic plants, including psychedelic mushrooms, during Tuesday’s election. But that doesn’t mean you can start growing your own shrooms or selling them commercially.
It does, however, mean that the city will not prioritize arrests for the use and possession of entheogenic plants.
“Shall the voters of the City of Detroit adopt an ordinance to the 2019 Detroit City Code that would decriminalize to the fullest extent permitted under Michigan law the personal possession and therapeutic use of Entheogenic Plants by adults and make the personal possession and therapeutic use of Entheogenic Plants by adults the city’s lowest law-enforcement priority,” Proposal E reads.
Over 61 percent of voters supported the measure.
State Sen. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, has long been a supporter of decriminalizing entheogens and recently introduced a bill in the state Senate with Adam Hollier, D-Detroit, that proposed statewide decriminalization.
“When you look at these entheogenic substances, they are not causing problems in our communities,” Irwin said. “By and large, they are the types of substances that have medicinal value, and a long history of cultural and religious significance. And they have a very low propensity for abuse. And so, for all those reasons, it makes perfect sense to stop wasting time and money arresting and prosecuting people for using.”
Here’s everything you need to know about Proposal E and the movement to decriminalize psychedelics:
The personal possession and therapeutic use of entheogenic plants by adults is still not legal.
Decriminalization means it becomes the city’s lowest law-enforcement priority and criminal charges will not be pressed against those who are found in possession of the drug. It is no longer an arrestable or jailable offense, Irwin said.
Denver was the first to decriminalize entheogens, making the move in 2019.
In the state, Ann Arbor city council voted to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms in October 2020, making it the fourth city in the U.S. and first in Michigan to do so. Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit has previously said he does not plan to “prosecute the use or possession of entheogenic plants in any other part of the county.”
Grand Rapids city commissioners voted in October to “show support” for the decriminalization of psychedelic mushrooms, but have yet to pass any proposals.
Oregon took it a step further and legalized magic mushrooms this time last year.
Irwin pointed out that, in many cases, governments have voted to decriminalize psychedelics, but in Detroit, voters passed the proposal.
“I think it’s particularly interesting and exciting that the citizens so strongly supported it,” Irwin said. “I think that sends a strong signal that people, at least the in city of Detroit, and I think all over the state of Michigan, would be better served by no longer arresting or prosecuting or locking people up for using these entheogenic substances.
The jury is still out on the benefits of entheogenic plants.
A Johns Hopkins research team found last year that psychedelic treatment with psilocybin can relieve major depression. Still, most scientists and experts agree that there needs to be more research before widespread legalization or commercial selling. The good news is, decriminalization does neither of those things.
“(Research has) seen a lot of promise with using these substances to treat (depression and anxiety),” Irwin said. “There are people who have chronic pain, who are in our state right now, who might have migraines or cluster headaches, and you know, for years they were prescribed heavy-duty opiates that didn’t really work. But then one day, those people might find relief that is much more effective from a non-toxic alternative. And unfortunately, those people have to face a choice of either using the medicine that is safest for them and works best or breaking the law.”
Irwin theorized so many people might be against the decriminalization of entheogenic plants is because they haven’t tried it and associate it with the War on Drugs.
“I think that one of the challenges that we have with these entheogenic substances is that, unlike with something like cannabis, where most people have tried it and have personal experience with it, most people have not tried psilocybin or peyote, or ayahuasca, some of these natural substances that have been used by humans for thousands of years, but they’re just not common in our in our modern society,” he said.
Because they seem so foreign, people might be more susceptible to claims made my prohibitionists that entheogenic plants are highly dangerous.
Some have anecdotal success stories, including Salame, who has both used entheogens for his own medical well-being and witnessed its benefits on others.
“I came down with an autoimmune disease that my grandfather had and he had lost his eyesight,” Salame said. “I started to lose my eyesight. And subsequently, a lot of the doctors here in the United States couldn’t help me with what was going on. So I went down to Peru and tried some of the plant medicines. And I haven’t had any of the issues that a lot of the doctors say I was going to happen. That was six years ago.”
First and foremost, experts say more research is important to further discussions about the benefits of psychedelics on mental and physical health.
Irwin said his proposal with Hollier to decriminalize entheogenic plants statewide probably won’t pass, but he wants to start a conversation about it.
“When people are forced to deal with the facts of this issue, more and more people come to the side of decriminalizing and ending prohibition on these substances,” he said.
– Emma Stein
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