Michigan has seen local success around psychedelic decriminalization, and grassroots organizations are looking to expand that success statewide.
Activists in Michigan proposed legalizing natural psychedelics to go on the ballot for voters.
Local successes bolstered the proposed decriminalization measure. In 2020 Ann Arbor decriminalized psychedelics, and last November, Detroit locals voted to pass a similar measure.
Dozens of other cities and municipalities have followed suit in Michigan. The progress gave activists the confidence to pursue a statewide initiative.
Michigan Initiative for Community Healing is the ballot committee that put together the proposal. The committee comprises several drug reform organizations, including Decriminalize Nature and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.
The initiative committee also includes activists who have experience in decriminalization at the local level.
Myc Williams, the co-director of Decriminalize Nature’s Michigan chapter, calls the initiative “true decriminalization.”
The specific language cites decriminalization of “natural plants and mushrooms.” The list includes natural ingredients dimethyltryptamine, ibogaine, mescaline, peyote, psilocybin, and psilocin.
The proposed legislation would allow religious organizations and some chosen hospitals to cultivate and sell the fungi. The legislation language is exceptionally inclusive and broad.
“Everyone over the age of 18 would be allowed to grow, possess, use, cultivate, share, etc.,” Williams said.
The Michigan Initiative for Community Healing also tackles broader drug reforms on the ballot.
Possession of 1,000 or more grams of any drugs is currently a felony that carries up to a lifetime prison sentence; under the new initiative, penalties would drop it to a misdemeanor carrying one year in jail plus a fine.
If passed, possession of Schedule I and Schedule II controlled substances would have lesser penalties. As the number of drugs possessed gets smaller, the penalties would decrease accordingly.
The initiative further seeks to tackle fixing a legislative contradiction.
“People who choose to use drugs can be charged with another crime to test their substance…to know in fact what they are ingesting,” Williams said in an interview.
He believes that drug users should know what their drugs could be laced with without fear of legality.
“In a time of heavy drug fentanyl overdoses, it’s really important for people who use drugs to know what they’re consuming regardless of their legality from a public safety perspective,” Williams said. “The state supports harm reduction in the distribution of Narcan and fentanyl strips, which fentanyl strips are technically illegal.”
Williams is hopeful the initiative will clear up penalties drug consumers could incur regarding testing.
More research is coming out about positive results, and more states are seriously considering making similar policy changes.
The Great Lakes State is joining several other states in the push for legalized psychedelics. At the beginning of January, Virginia lawmakers proposed two pieces of legislation to reduce possession of psychedelics from a Class 5 felony to a civil penalty.
Colorado also proposed two initiatives, both including the legalization of certain entheogens. Under these initiatives, customers could potentially walk into a store and carry out psychedelics in a mylar bag as they would cannabis.
Some states that have not made any legislative moves are looking into the effects and benefits of studying psychedelics.
The mental health field has embraced the positive effects of psychedelics, and many states, including Michigan, are seizing on the treatment possibilities.
The data shows that even a single dose of psychedelics can have prolonged positive effects on mental health.
A recent study noted, “unlike traditional antidepressants, psychoplastogens (chemicals in psychedelics) produce both fast-acting and sustained beneficial behavioral effects.”
A study conducted during COVID-19 also found that people using entheogens have a reduced stress and anxiety rate than those who did not consume any.
Study after study has touted the healing effects of psychedelics, and people are taking notice.
Yet another reason states have begun the process of decriminalization and research is because it has disproportionately affected communities of color.
Addressing and changing these laws can alleviate these communities’ unfair treatment. Eli Savit is a prosecutor in Washtenaw County, and he openly supports the Michigan Initiative for Community Healing and their proposed ballot.
“For an unlucky few, their decision to use substances results in harsh, life-changing penalties. The War on Drugs has thus created a cruel roulette wheel of sorts. And it’s a weighted wheel, as the data clearly shows that Black people and people of color are far more likely to face criminal consequences related to drug use than white people,” Savit said.
These reasons have driven Michigan organizations, and the country could see landmark legalization passed if the initiative garners support.
If the Michigan Board of State Canvassers approves the initiative, activists and organizers will need to collect at least 340,000 signatures for the measure to be on the ballot. Psychedelic proponents will be eagerly watching Michigan as a spearhead for similar efforts.