Now seems as good of a time as any to make like a Merry Prankster and dose the world. Logistical and ethical issues aside, a magic potion to flip everybody’s perspective has never been more appealing. Spiking the water supply with LSD is obviously out of the question. But what about all of the wonderful psychedelics that grow right from the ground? We could at least make those not illegal, right?
Many activists and organizations all over the Pacific Northwest are pushing to decriminalize natural psychedelics. With cannabis legal in so much of North America, decriminalizing plants and fungus psychedelics has never appeared more achievable.
The most visible organization helping drive psychedelic plant and fungus decriminalization is the aptly named Decriminalize Nature. The mission of the organization is to “improve human health and well-being by decriminalizing and expanding access to entheogenic plants and fungi through political and community organizing, education, and advocacy.”
Based out of Oakland, the organization itself is not Pacific Northwest-based.
Offshoots of the prominent and prolific organization, however, are popping up all over the Pacific Northwest. Decriminalize Nature released a map of municipalities with action being taken. The action ranges from reaching out for information to getting initiatives on ballots.
While much of the movement is still in its infancy, the number of communities with individuals and organizations moving forward on community-building and legislating hints at some effective organizing happening behind the scenes.
In addition to Decriminalize Nature, Psychedelic Societies offer another approach to moving the psychedelic conversation forward. More focused on meetings and conversations than legislation, Psychedelic Societies offer a jumping-off point for those interested in organizing and educating interested parties. Many psychedelic societies push for legislative changes as well.
Psychedelic organizations including societies, local Decriminalize Nature affiliates, and more, have been established all over the world. The Pacific Northwest’s movement is particularly robust.
Victoria and Greater Vancouver Island
Victoria, British Columbia has two active psychedelic organizations. One is the Victoria Association for Psychedelic Studies (VAPS).
“We have become an education and integration hub, where community members can share their interests and inquiries, and connect with information, resources, and support,” Oberg wrote. “As such, we assembled a team of harm-reduction experts and formed The Celium in 2017, to service Canadian music festivals, events, and night clubs/afterparties.”
VAPS supports the Psychedelic Psychotherapy Forum, a conference that occurs every other fall. The next one is coming up in October 2020 in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.
The newly-formed Canadian Psychedelic Association developed a petition that Nanaimo’s Member of Parliament will bring to Canada’s Federal House of Commons. The petition calls for the decriminalization of natural psychedelics.
The other Victoria-based psychedelic society is Victoria Entheogen Discussions and Support (VEDAS). According to VEDAS’ description:
“VEDAS is an inclusive community interested in the psychological and spiritual uses of psychedelics and plant medicines for healing and awakening. Together, as a community, we offer our shared knowledge and support to those who have had significant experiences with the intentional uses of plant medicines, mind-altering substances, meditation, breathwork, spiritual retreats, and other non-ordinary states of mind.”
British Columbia’s biggest city, Vancouver also has some major organizing going on regarding decriminalizing plant and fungus psychedelics.
Vancouver Psychedelic Society. The group is “a group circle advocating responsible use of psychedelics and plant medicines as a tool for healing, mental wellness, personal growth, and spiritual development. Our mission is to spread awareness and perspectives – both positive and negative – associated with psychedelics,” according to their Facebook Group description.
In September, Vancouver city council shot down an attempt to crack down on ‘magic mushroom’ sales in the city, in large part because of the hard work of advocates who pointed to the promising research being done on psilocybin’s ability to treat stubborn depression and a variety of other difficult-to-treat ailments.
The Canadian Psychedelic Association and the affiliated Decriminalize Nature Canada are also listed as Vancouver-based.
The only municipality in Washington to have written an official resolution to the city council is Port Townsend, surprisingly.
The Port Townsend Psychedelic Society has made some impressive progress towards psychedelic Decriminalization. The group wrote a resolution and presented it to several city officials.
On July 18, 2019, The Port Townsend Psychedelic Society posted about presenting its resolution with county health officials.
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Today we gave our speech to the Port Townsend County Board of Public Health! We are overwhelmed by the support of our community. Our group of supporters filled up half the audience. We are currently making plans to speak with the county health officer to talk about next steps in presenting in front of city and county council. Much gratitude 🙏 free the plants 🌱✨💖 #freetheplants #plantmedicine #mushrooms #ayahuasca #peyote #heal #pnw #porttownsend #endwarondrugs
On August 19, 2019, Rebecca Ramsey of the Port Townsend Psychedelic Society “spoke about decriminalizing cartheogenic plants and fungi,” according to Port Townsend City Council’s meeting minutes. Four out of six of the public comments at that meeting were in support of the resolution.
Ramsey also spoke before the Jefferson County Board of Health and the Jefferson Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) to advocate for her resolution on August 15 and August 26 respectively.
The resolution appears to have been tabled, but the initial surge of advocacy and community support is hopeful. The petition for the resolution is still collecting signatures.
Seattle is home to lots of natural psychedelic organizations working hard to organize and educate, but it hasn’t translated into legislative action quite yet.
Decriminalize Nature members are currently trying to push the plant psychedelic conversation forward with Seattle City Council.
“We are in the process of working with City Council and are continuing to build community and offer educational and connective spaces,” Hila Corazon, member of Decriminalize Nature Seattle told The Sesh. “Working with any community and enacting this kind of change is not exactly a step by step, linear kind of process, so we are in it for a long haul.”
Hila was clear that this discussion was in its infancy, and that her expectations were realistic.
“The Seattle City Council process is an internal one,” Corazon wrote via email. “If they choose, they can turn their internal vote over to the city vote. As it is now, it is not an initiative, and will not be on a ballot. We are a little ways from that being the conversation at this point.”
Cascadia Psychedelic Community is also doing organization work by hosting events to educate the community. The ambitious Cascadia Psychedelic Community Conference was scheduled for the weekend of April 10-12 2020 but was of course canceled due to COVID-19.
Oregon has a lot happening in the realm of decriminalizing natural psychedelics. There could be three measures on the relating to natural psychedelics in November. It all depends on getting enough signatures on the petitions.
There is IP 34, which has received 130,691, out of the 145,000 signatures needed. IP 34, also known as the Oregon Psilocybin Services Act, would allow medical professionals to administer psilocybin therapy to patients, and conduct research.
The second initiative isn’t regarding natural psychedelics specifically but looks to broadly decriminalize all drug possession. Initiative 44, the Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act “Decriminalizes personal, non-commercial possession of most drugs; establishes fund to create addiction recovery centers.” As of March 31, the petition has 119,450 signatures,
Initiative PDX-01 seeks to decriminalize minor possession of natural psychedelics in the City of Portland.
COVID-19 presents a challenge for gathering signatures.
“Qualifying for the November ballot will require a concerted effort from a broad base of volunteers and partners, as well as from Oregon voters who will have to step up and put a little more time in than would typically be necessary to sign this petition,” Sheri Eckert, Co-Chief Petitioner of IP 34 and a therapist said in a statement. “We’ve been working for years to build a formidable coalition of healthcare professionals, veterans, and advocates of all kinds who believe that this psilocybin therapy initiative offers an important therapeutic option for many Oregonians and we will not let the current challenges discourage our efforts.”
You can sign-up online to sign the petition.
In addition to all of the other Oregon momentum, a movement is beginning in Eugene as well. Former home to Ken Kesey himself, it’s no surprise the quaint rural town has a psychedelic movement in the works.
Members of The Psychedelic Society of Eugene “aim to hold a safe space, find the others, and further the advancement of the global psychedelic community through education, experience, community building, and compassion.”
The group hopes to ‘fortify the legitimacy of this psychedelic renaissance.’
The Movement is Underway
When it comes to psychedelic mushrooms, the Pacific Northwest should be at the forefront of any decriminalization efforts. They grow here all on their own. As we saw with cannabis prohibition, it doesn’t work. Plants should be legal.
The sheer amount of effort being put into this movement is inspiring.
As Hila Corazon puts it “there is a rainbow of approaches to psychedelics.” This rainbow will work in favor of decriminalization. Diverse minds, and diverse approaches, will help end the prohibition of plants with the power to change perspectives.
Image by Arp / CC BY-SA