Lansterdam in Review

Ballot initiative aims to legalize psychedelic shrooms — and more

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Sorry, stoners. I’m taking this column in a bit of a different direction this week to shed some much-needed light on a statewide ballot proposal that just had its language approved last week by the state’s Board of Canvassers. It’s called the Michigan Initiative for Community Healing. 

And if its organizers can collect 340,000 signatures by June, and if those signature are deemed legit, the language will go on the ballot so voters can decide in November. If voters approve, Michigan will have scored a major victory in the war on drugs. And I might just start up a new column dedicated to psychedelic trips. 

The proposal seeks to amend state law by decriminalizing the production and use of all-natural plants and mushrooms — including “magic mushrooms” that contain hallucinogenic psilocybin and psilocin; cacti-like peyote and others that contain dissociative mescaline; ibogaine from the roots of Tabernanthe iboga; and the potent psychedelic dimethyltryptamine — known as DMT. 

Home cultivation and possession of all entheogenic plants would be made entirely legal in Michigan, as would be “giving away” any of the resulting harvest. Only religious organizations and state-certified hospitals and medical professionals would be able to offer them for sale. 

The proposal would also reduce the criminal possession penalties for all controlled substances (including heroin and cocaine) by watering down several currently imprisonable felony offenses to simple misdemeanors that are punishable by a ticket and a fine, regardless of the amount. 

I’ve dabbled with shrooms and DMT in college — both of which provided some truly enlightening experiences. But, since my expertise is primarily in cannabis, I spoke last week with several activists from Decriminalize Nature and Students for Sensible Drug Policy — the two groups spearheading the initiative locally — to better understand their two-fold battle plan. 

Myc Williams, the co-director of the Michigan chapter of Decriminalize Nature, has a 10-point plan on why voters should hop aboard the shroom train this year and fully legalize psychedelics. And at the root of it all are basic American liberties and personal freedoms. Put simply: Cops have better stuff to do than worry about the cultivation and possession of all-natural plants. 

Archaic laws prohibiting them have only stood in the way of personal and spiritual growth through entheogenic plants, which research shows can help people overcome addiction and other mental health concerns, Williams said. Decades of research shows a scientific connection between psychedelics like shrooms — and the profound experiences that come with them — and their ability to help people overcome addictions to alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. 

Entheogenic plants, when used properly, have also been shown to be effective at treating other mental health problems like suicidal thoughts, depression and anxiety, Williams explained. 

While research shows that psychedelic plants are extraordinarily safe and not addictive, cocaine and heroin are a bit of a different story — making the second leg of this recent ballot initiative an arguably steeper (but no less important) hill to climb in the state’s war on drugs. 

But hold on to your pearls, because it’s still a proposal that’s well worth your consideration. 

Broader reforms buried in the petition language would notch down possession of any amount of all Schedule I or II controlled substances from a felony to a misdemeanor. Possession of less than 25 grams would decrease from a four-year felony charge and up to $25,000 fine, to a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of only 93 days in jail and a fine of no more than $250. 

The potential punishments would cap out at a year behind bars and a $1,000 fine — but only for those convicted of hauling around 1,000 grams or more. It would still only be a misdemeanor.

Williams said reducing criminal penalties is a vital step in putting rehabilitation over retribution. 

“The drug war has been an epic failure in terms of sending people to prison — often with life-changingly long sentences — for simple possession and from choices made at a younger age,” Williams said. “All that has done is take away opportunities to recover and get ahead.” 

He compared the proposal to a similar measure passed in Oregon last year, which was modeled on Portugal’s full decriminalization of all hard drugs in 2001. Decriminalization there has been attributed to expanded treatment services and a subsequent 80% decrease in overdose deaths. Prioritizing health and safety over punishment could help save the state costs by redirecting law enforcement to more serious crimes and reducing the overall prison population, Williams said. 

Kat Ebert, a recent MSU graduate who co-founded the campus’ chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, said that predominantly Black communities, rural areas and other lower socio-economic pockets of the state have had tougher times with stigmas surrounding drugs. As a result, the proposed solutions could also help to create a more equitable future, she noted. 

“This has only perpetuated systemic racism and oppression,” she said. “Nobody should be going to prison for a non-violent drug offense. This would be a huge step in the right direction for us.” 

If organizers are able to collect 340,000 voter signatures, the amendments could be adopted by the legislature or make their way directly to the November ballot to be decided by voters at the polls. And then, theoretically, you could be off on your first legal shroom trip before Christmas. 

Visit micommunityhealing.org for more details on where and when to sign the ballot initiative. 

Kyle Kaminski is City Pulse’s managing editor and a cannabis enthusiast who has been smoking marijuana just about every day for the last decade. Editor & Publisher Magazine has also labeled him as “arguably, the state’s authority on everything you need to know about cannabis.” Have a suggestion for a cannabis product? Email kyle@lansingcitypulse.com. 

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