Detroit Approves Psychedelics Decriminalization Ballot Measure

Detroit could be the next city to make a move when it comes to decriminalizing psychedelics and moving forward into the future.

Detroit voters overwhelmingly approved Proposal E on Tuesday, to decriminalize naturally occurring psychedelic drugs including mescaline, ayahuasca, psilocybin and dimethyltryptamine (DMT). Proposal E, which was approved by 61 percent of the city’s voters, makes the personal possession and therapeutic use of entheogenic plants and fungi such as psilocybin mushrooms the city’s lowest law enforcement priority.

With the adoption of the ballot measure, Detroit becomes the latest municipality to approve psychedelics decriminalization measures, with Washington, D.C., Denver and Oakland, California and other cities nationwide passing similar legislation through the ballot box or city council action. Other cities in Michigan including Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids have also advanced similar measures.

“We are seeing a steady trend underway of local municipalities voting to decriminalize the therapeutic use of entheogenic plants, Dr. John Huber, CEO of TripSitter Clinic, a ketamine telemedicine clinic that has recently become available in Michigan, told High Times in an email. 

“The passage of this ballot measure in Detroit represents where everyday people are at as it relates to embracing non-traditional modalities of healing,” Huber added. “Every local decriminalization law which passes serves to create a more equitable society: one that doesn’t judge or punish individuals for embarking on their own journey of healing.”

Proposal E qualified for Detroit’s November ballot after a signature-gathering campaign spearheaded by the group Decriminalize Nature Michigan. Moudou Baqui, a spokesperson for Decriminalize Nature in Detroit, said that the measure does not apply to commercial psychedelic activity, which would have necessitated detailed regulatory provisions.

“If we move to decriminalize, we eliminate a whole slew of potential issues, whether it’s licensing, whether it’s so-called code enforcement, whether it’s so-called compliance issues,” Baqui told Detroit public radio.

Broader Psychedelic Decriminalization Efforts Also Underway in Detroit

Activists and lawmakers are pushing to reform policy on psychedelic drugs and entheogenic plants at the state level, as well. In last year’s November election, voters made Oregon the first state in the nation to decriminalize psilocybin for therapeutic use with the passage of Measure 109. 

And in September, Michigan Democratic state Senator Jeff Irwin introduced a bill to decriminalize psychedelic drugs including psilocybin and mescaline in the state, although commercial production and sales would still be illegal. Under the legislation, Senate Bill 631, possession and use of psychedelic drugs produced by entheogenic plants and fungi including psilocybin, DMT, ibogaine, mescaline and psilocybin would be “exempt from criminal prosecution in certain circumstances.”

“These substances have medicinal value, they have religious significance and they have a very low propensity for abuse,” Irwin told the Michigan Advance after he introduced the bill. “And so, that’s why I’m proposing to decriminalize the substance because it really makes no sense to spend any time or money arresting people and turning their lives upside down.”

Irwin’s bill is co-sponsored by fellow Democrat Senator Adam Hollier, who says that psychedelics decriminalization could be the first step toward legalization. 

“Michigan can be what Colorado was for marijuana almost a decade ago as a boon and as an economic opportunity,” Hollier said. “But most importantly, [we need to] stop trying to make things criminal for no reason just because people don’t like them.”

“Because often the people who get in trouble for these things are minority communities, right? Decriminalizing just adds a little more equity in the system,” he added.

Better Mental Health Through Psychedelics

Payton Nyquvest, CEO and founder of psychedelic-assisted therapy and products company Numinus, says that psychedelic medicine and psychotherapy have the power to transform lives. Ongoing studies of psychedelic-assisted therapy show a potential to treat many serious conditions, including depression, anxiety, substance use disorder and PTSD.

“The current healthcare systems are not equipped to handle the increasing global rates of mental illness, addiction and trauma and aren’t able to treat and manage mental health needs. Psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy relies on trained psychedelic therapists and counselors who support patients on their journeys, combining traditional psychotherapy with psychedelic medicine,” Nyquvest told High Times in a virtual interview. 

“Psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy is a trauma-informed practice that integrates the experiences a patient has during their psychedelic journey with their everyday life, helping the patient to move past or better understand their traumas.”

Nyquvest added that the modern health care system needs to develop new treatments as alternatives to traditional therapies, which are not effective for many patients. Decriminalization, he said, can help speed the process. 

“Decriminalizing psychedelics is one step towards reducing the stigma associated with psychedelic medicines and increasing accessibility in mental health treatments,” Nyquvest said. “The current system relies heavily on traditional pharmaceuticals focused on treating the symptoms and not the cause. This system can be cost-prohibitive, with a high barrier to entry.”

Nyquvest believes that with continued research, therapists can “create a new model of accessibility” for their patients, particularly those with conditions that resist current standard mental health treatments.

Polling places for Detroit’s election open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, November 2, 2021.

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