First Oregon legalized psychedelics for medical use, and decriminalized them statewide. Then California and Michigan floated bills to legalize psychedelics statewide as well. Now, it’s Washington offering up a bill that would legalize magic mushrooms throughout the entire state for recreational use. Will the bill go through?
It’s exciting that Washington might legalize magic mushrooms, but the bill hasn’t passed yet. Right now it’s one of three states looking to legalize recreational psychedelic substances in some way. We’re all about covering this new and emerging industry for both medical and recreational use! For more articles on the subject, subscribe to the Psychedelics Weekly Newsletter, and get your regular dose of psychedelic news.
Psychedelics are classified as psychoactive drugs, under the heading of hallucinogens. Psychedelics are known for the hallucinations they cause, wherein the user has a sensory experience inconsistent with reality. This can mean hearing, seeing, tasting, smelling, or feeling something that isn’t actually there. Psychedelics can be found in nature, like mushrooms, DMT, or ibogaine; or made in a lab like LSD, ketamine, and PCP.
Psychedelics are also known for causing feelings of euphoria and well-being, of promoting feelings of connectedness between people and with the universe. Of inciting spiritual experiences; and of altering mood, perception and general cognition. Though psychedelics often promote positive experiences, they sometimes can lead to a bad trip, in which the user experiences negative, or even scary, hallucinations; as well as anxiety, paranoia, elevated blood pressure, nausea, chills, erratic heartbeat, and vomiting. Taking precautions to ensure the correct dosage and surroundings, can go a long way to ensuring a good trip.
Despite being used throughout history, psychedelics were nearly uniformly banned by the mid-late 1900’s, starting with LSD and magic mushrooms. Drugs were used to detract from anti-war activists, and the counterculture movement that was driven on by opposition to the Vietnam war, and expanding ideas of social justice. The US passed the Staggers-Dodd bill in 1968 criminalizing LSD and mushrooms, followed by the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, and the UN’s Convention on Psychotropic Substances in 1971.
What’s the deal with Washington trying to legalize psychedelics?
Right at the start of the new year, Washington state legislators introduced the Psilocybin Wellness and Opportunity Act (SB 5660), which, if passed, would legalize products with the two main psychedelic compounds found in magic mushrooms: psilocybin and psilocin. While this would qualify as a step up from needing some kind of therapist present (like in Oregon), it would require a trained and state-licensed psilocybin services administrator.
This would entail going to your local neighborhood services provider to receive your magic mushroom experience, with the exception of those with medical conditions, who would be allowed to be serviced in their homes. Who would be allowed to access this service in general? Anyone of adult age, as the bill establishes a fully legal and regulated psilocybin industry.
According to senior fellow and project lead on Harvard Law School’s Project at Psychedelics Law and Regulation, Mason Marks, who also helped draft the bill, “Under supported adult use, psilocybin services are made available to people 21 and older for nearly any purpose.” He goes on to clarify “The Act specifies that clients need not have a medical condition to participate, and psilocybin services in Washington will not constitute medical diagnoses or treatment.”
Says bill co-sponsor Senator Jesse Salomon, “it is exciting to know that research shows that guided, safe and certified psilocybin services have some of the best results compared to any therapy in curing addiction, anxiety, depression and addressing inner challenges people face.”
Some more specifics of this new bill
How will Washington legalize magic mushrooms? Washington’s Department of Health would issue licensing and oversee the industry. A new body called the Washington Psilocybin Advisory Board would be created within the department which would offer insight into research, best practices, and the social opportunity program which would be started.
What would this social opportunity program involve? Among other things it would provide a reduction in license fees, training opportunities, and further benefits for low-income licensees. To qualify for this program, applicants need to be low-income, or own a business where more than half of employees are low-income, and from ‘distressed areas’. Qualification for ‘distressed areas’ is determined by the federal free lunch program enrollment, or other criteria set forth by the Health Department.
If the bill passes, the state’s Health Department would be tasked with creating a regulatory framework for all this, with 18 months to do this after the bill passes. The department would begin to receive applications no later than January 2nd, 2024, for everything including manufacturing, service centers, and product testers. Any incorporated city or town which does not want such service centers opening up, doesn’t have to let them.
Service centers would have to follow certain guidelines, like needing to be more than 1,000 feet from elementary and middle schools, and for the first couple years of operation would only be available to Washington residents, (including entities which are majority owned and controlled by Washington residents.)
Under this bill, employers could not discriminate against employees for using legal magic mushroom services, unless the employee is visibly impaired to the degree that it’s noticeable and effecting how they function on the job.
Seattle already made a psychedelics decriminalization policy
On October 4th, 2021, Seattle Washington’s City Council unanimously approved a measure to decriminalize entheogenic plants like magic mushrooms. Entheogenic plants are plants that contain psychedelic compounds like magic mushrooms ( psilocybin, psilocin ), or peyote (mescaline). The decriminalization makes arresting people for possession and use of psychedelic substances one of the lowest priorities for law enforcement.
Having said that, Seattle didn’t actually change any laws. The vote was for a non-binding resolution, which means its technically only a recommendation, not a legal update. This is important because it means though law enforcement is ‘recommended’ not to react to these things, it has not been legally mandated not to. Which means if law enforcement personnel do not agree with this measure, they don’t have to abide by it.
This sentiment was also felt among some council members, like Kshama Sawant, who stated: “I am a little confused by this resolution… We have not pushed for resolutions in place of ordinances where it is possible, realistic, and necessary from a political and moral standpoint for the council to have an ordinance passed. I fail to see what the plausible reasons are for council members who claim to support this issue to let an ordinance which takes concrete action sit in the city’s computers un-introduced, and instead push a resolution which only has the power to make requests.”
Unlike this non-binding resolution, should the state of Washington pass SB 5660, it would mean a complete legal update, not simply a recommendation to law enforcement not to harass people for using these substances anymore.
Michigan & California
Washington isn’t the only state looking to legalize magic mushrooms, or other psychedelics. Michigan and California have similar bills in the works too. California’s initiative, called the California Psilocybin Legalization Initiative would “legalize psilocybin, including psilocybin mushrooms, truffles, sclerotia, and mycelium, in California.” This would include the “cultivation, manufacture, processing, distribution, transportation, possession, storage, consumption, and retail sale of psilocybin mushrooms.” If all goes well, it will end up on the 2022 ballot for a vote by the people, and if it does pass, it would create the first regulated sales market for recreational psychedelics in the US.
Michigan has its own initiative in the form of Senate Bill 631. Introduced in September 2021, this bill would legalize entheogenic plants for cultivation, possession, delivery, and production, but not for sales. It would, however, allow for group use. The only time a charge could be applied, would be in the instance of “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.”
Apart from these states, individual locations around the country have already implemented decriminalization policies. These include: Denver, Colorado; Oakland, Santa Cruz, and Arcata in California; Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County, and Detroit, Michigan; Washington, DC; Somerville, Cambridge, Northampton, and Easthampton in Massachusetts; and Seattle, Washington.
Whether Washington will go ahead and legalize magic mushrooms is hard to say. However, with the current uptick in legislation to decriminalize or legalize psychedelics use, (spurred on by the US government’s own legalization of esketamine, and the constantly growing gray ketamine market), it seems likely that even if this measure fails, and the other two states fail too, that something will get through soon enough.
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Hi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or businessperson. All information in my articles is sourced and referenced, and all opinions stated are mine. I am not giving anyone advice, and though I am more than happy to discuss topics, should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a relevant professional.