Michigan Lawmaker Introduces Psychedelics Decriminalization Bill
Michigan Democratic state Sen. Jeff Irwin introduced a bill this month to decriminalize two popular psychedelic drugs in a bid to make them available for therapeutic use while closing a chapter on the failed War on Drugs. Under the legislation, Senate Bill 631, possession and use of psychedelics including psilocybin and mescaline would be “exempt from criminal prosecution in certain circumstances.”
“These substances have medicinal value, they have religious significance and they have a very low propensity for abuse,” Irwin told the Michigan Advance after introducing the legislation. “And so that’s why I’m proposing to decriminalize the substance because it really makes no sense to spend any time or money arresting people and turning their lives upside down.”
Irwin’s bill, which is co-sponsored by fellow Democrat Sen. Adam Hollier, psychedelic drugs produced by entheogenic plants and fungi including psilocybin, DMT, ibogaine, mescaline and psilocyn, would be decriminalized, although commercial production and sales would still be illegal. However, practitioners would be permitted to charge a “reasonable fee for counseling, spiritual guidance, or a related service that is provided in conjunction with the use of an entheogenic plant or fungus under the guidance and supervision of an individual providing the service.”
The legislation follows the lead of Ann Arbor, the home of the University of Michigan, which passed a city ordinance in September 2020 to decriminalize the use of psychedelics. Similar measures have been proposed in Detroit, Traverse City and Grand Rapids, as well.
“There are efforts in other communities across the state to decriminalize these substances and to stop wasting any police resource [and] turning people’s lives upside down over it,” Irwin said. “I’m really proud to be kind of starting up this conversation at the state level of why is it that we’re continuing to engage this fail in government policy of prohibition? Why are we continuing to prosecute the war on drugs in ways that don’t help us and lead to mass incarceration?”
Psychedelics As Medicine
Researchers continue to study the potential medicinal applications of psychedelic drugs including psilocybin. Research published last year in the journal JAMA Psychiatry found that psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy was a quick-acting and effective treatment for a group of 24 participants with major depressive disorder. A separate study published in 2016 determined that psilocybin treatment produced substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer.
But prohibition puts psychedelic drugs out of reach from many people who could potentially benefit from them. Under Senate Bill 631, Irwin said, sick people would not be forced to choose between their health and following the law.
“Fixing that for those people and giving our institutions an opportunity to research and learn more about why these substances work for some people can be a great benefit to many people who are struggling with mental illness,” he said. “I think there are a number of benefits that can come out of [this] legislation.”
The Movement To Decriminalize Psychedelics
The movement to decriminalize psychedelics in Michigan parallels similar efforts in other states. In the November general election, voters in both Oregon and the nation’s capital decriminalized entheogenic substances. And a California decriminalization bill gained momentum this summer before eventually being abandoned as other political priorities took lawmakers’ attention.
Much of the heavy lifting for the psychedelics decriminalization movement has been shouldered by activist group Decriminalize Nature, a national organization with local chapters from coast to coast. Organizers with the group hope to build on the success that marijuana legalization advocates have seen and continue to achieve across the country.
“With the success of the cannabis movement, people have noticed nothing bad has happened since lightening up the prohibition,” Myc Williams, director of communication for Decriminalize Nature Michigan, told Hour Detroit in May. “The same is going to happen with naturally occurring entheogens like mushrooms. They’ve got fantastic safety profiles and they can help with depression and end-of-life anxiety.”
And like marijuana, which is used medicinally by millions seeking relief from physical ailments, psychedelic drugs also have applications for general wellness and mental health.
“People have found spiritual purpose [and] have found better practices in their daily life,” Williams told the Michigan Advance. “Whether it be appreciation for the little things in life, family, and nature. And so this isn’t strictly a medical thing, this isn’t strictly a spiritual thing, but this is for the well-being of every individual and larger communities across the state.”