On Monday, October 4, the Seattle City Council voted to decriminalize the non-commercial possession and cultivation of many psychedelics for “religious, spiritual, healing, or personal growth practices.” Council members passed the resolution unanimously, with a 9-0 vote.
The city is the largest in the recent string of decriminalization initiatives taking place in cities across the United States, including Washington DC, Oakland, Denver, and the state of Oregon. Seattle’s legislation includes several different psychedelics, including psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca, and ibogaine. The legislation also decriminalizes non-peyote-derived mescaline.
“These nonaddictive natural substances have real potential in clinical and therapeutic settings to make a really significant difference in people’s lives. This resolution really sets the stage as the first significant action in the state of Washington to move this policy forward.”
The resolution declares “that the investigation, arrest, and prosecution of anyone engaging in entheogen-related activities should be among The City of Seattle’s lowest enforcement priorities.”
This significant change is one of several that the City of Seattle has undertaken over the past year. Earlier in 2021, the state of Washington passed SB 5476, legislation that reduced penalties for drug possession to a gross misdemeanor, punishable by 90 days in jail. Those in violation can still face criminal penalties in this bill. Yet, the legislation also states that law enforcement is required to refer first and second-time violations to drug treatment before prosecution. A judge can also refer to treatment over prosecution.
This bill came after a Supreme Court ruling that declared pre-existing drug possession policy unconstitutional: Longstanding law made it a felony to possess controlled substances, even unintentionally. After the Supreme Court ruling, the Seattle Police Department declared that simple possession was no longer an arrestable offense. Earlier in September, as Marijuana Moment reports, the Overdose Emergency Innovative Recovery task force included drug decriminalization in its list of recommendations to the Seattle City Council for reducing the opioid overdose crisis.
Seattle City Council members expect more work ahead, however. The current initiative to decriminalize psychedelics was passed as a resolution, not as an ordinance that would amend municipal code. With this understanding, the resolution states that the Council will take the following steps “to determine what changes would be necessary to protect from arrest or prosecution individuals who cultivate entheogens.” The current resolution does not legalize the commercial sale of psychedelics. Some psychoactive substances, including LSD and MDMA remain illegal.