Seattle’s Overdose Emergency Innovative Recovery task force, convened and led by the organization VOCAL-WA and other community organizers, has recommended decriminalizing psychedelics as a way of curbing opioid deaths. Seattle City Councilmember Andrew Lewis is committed to introducing an ordinance by the end of this year that puts possession of psychedelics low on the city law enforcement’s list of priorities.
“For myself, it is a priority to at least introduce an ordinance this year,” Lewis said. “And frankly, if there’s sort of a consensus and there’s lightning in a bottle, I don’t think it’s inconceivable that an ordinance could be passed this year. I think it’s actually pretty reasonable. Let me put it this way: I am not getting beat up a lot by constituents that are emailing saying, you know, ‘The streets are going to run wild with people that are strung out on psychedelics!’ For that reason I think that you could conceivably see the legislature do it without punting it to the voters.”
Along with Lewis, councilmember Lisa Herbold led a large group of their colleagues in asking last June for the task force to “add to their work plan an examination of public policy governing psychedelic medicines.”
“I generally do not think that the criminal legal system is a good place to deal with issues related to addiction and substance dependency. I have a longstanding interest in developing systems where we figure out how we are going to have treatment-based, harm reduction-based approaches to substance addiction instead of carceral or court-supervised regimes,” said Lewis. “We know now, obviously, there were incredibly strong political and racist motivations behind those that had nothing to do with any kind of policy consideration.”
Decrim Nature Seattle, a psychedelic decriminalization group, is also calling on the Seattle City Council to pass an ordinance decriminalizing psychedelics. A prospective 2022 ballot measure shows other statewide reform advocates preparing to propose decriminalizing all drugs in Washington State.
“Typically the public policy challenges that we’re presented with don’t intersect with psychedelics as presenting public policy problems. By that I mean, I don’t get emails from constituents that are like, you know, ‘Some guy, high on psilocybin, just, you know, broke into my car,'” said Lewis. “There’s a lot of focus on the public safety and public policy area on meth, on opioids, but there hasn’t been as much of disorder associated with these substances.”
We’ll be sure to keep you updated as this story continues to develop.