Michigan activists are making a statewide push to deregulate psilocybin mushrooms and other psychedelic substances, months after Ann Arbor City Council moved entheogenic plants and fungi to its lowest law enforcement priority.
Decriminalize Nature Michigan announced on March 5 that the organization is ready to introduce state-level drug policy reform legislation and has ‘begun a process of discussion and education with legislators, cities, citizens’. “Our mission 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,” Julie Barron, Co-Director of Decriminalize Nature Michigan says.
“We felt that it was very promising when we talked to the Democratic Senator and the Senator is ready to propose the bill,” Barron tells Truffle Report over a phone call. “We have written and submitted the [draft] legislation to the Democrat Senator. He is planning to have the city attorneys look at it and then get back to us. That’s the stage we’re at right now,” she adds. Barron chose not to disclose the name of the Senator who is likely to sponsor the upcoming bill.
In the meantime, advocates are trying to get Republican lawmakers to co-sponsor the bill in the legislature. “We feel our bill has a better chance of passing if we have bipartisan support,” Barron shares. Besides the sponsors, there are multiple grassroots organizations coming together in support of this bill, including the Michigan Psychedelic Society, and city-level Decriminalize Nature groups from places like Detroit, Mid Michigan, and Marquette.
Led by the local branch of Decriminalize Nature, Ann Arbor became the first city in Michigan to decriminalize psychedelics in September 2020 with unanimous support from its city council members. Months later, Washtenaw County’s Prosecuting Attorney Eli Savit announced that he would adopt a similar resolution. Savit committed to cease charging Washtenaw residents with crimes related to the use, possession, or cultivation of entheogenic plants and fungi; and to bring the county’s policy in sync with its largest city.
The current state-level draft legislation is going to be similar to Ann Arbor’s ordinance, and is likely to add comprehensive language aiming to eliminate penalties on personal possession. “The proposed draft bill is very similar to the Ann Arbor resolution. We’re looking to decriminalize entheogenic plants and fungi, things like mushrooms and mescaline containing cacti, iboga, ayahuasca, and we’re looking to add some language to the public health code,” Barron says. The draft bill is still under discussion and Barron shared that it is likely to take some months to a year before it is introduced in the Michigan legislature.
While the activists are looking to collaborate with the Michigan lawmakers to introduce a ‘bipartisan language to decriminalize these plants and fungi statewide’, they have also filed as a Ballot Committee with the State of Michigan. “It was a path we were considering, but we realize it is best we work collaboratively with our leadership toward healing our veterans, elders, and those with mental health needs as one community,” Decriminalize Nature says in its press release. They also requested that Michigan voters reach out to their elected officials and support the initiative.
Decriminalize Nature is at the forefront of decriminalizing entheogenic plants and has led several successful campaigns across the country, with over 100 cities across the U.S. seeking to introduce similar resolutions or legislation.
“The thing about the Decriminalize Nature movement is that we want to make sure that it’s equitable and accessible to everyone. I am not completely against legalization. I am not completely against the medicalization model but we do think we have to keep it equitable,” Barron says.
Elsewhere in the country, lawmakers from multiple states have introduced similar drug policy reforms. In February, state legislators from California, Texas, Massachusetts, Kansas, Washington State, and Iowa all filed similar bills, with some aiming to decriminalize all drugs —or just entheogens— while others look to create frameworks for legal psychedelic-assisted therapies, or to allow state health authorities to study the benefits of psychedelic substances.
Ritika is a Toronto-based reporter. She writes about drug policies and developments in psychedelics.