The city council in Portland, Maine “voted 6-3 to pass a resolution deprioritizing prosecution for possession” of magic mushrooms and other psychedelic drugs, according to local news outlet News Center Maine, and NBC affiliate.
The outlet noted that the resolution does not decriminalize such psychedelics, as has been reported elsewhere.
Instead, it “sets official city policy to put those crimes at the lowest priority for prosecution,” News Center Maine reported.
The outlet reported: “When reached for comment Wednesday, Maeghan Maloney, district attorney for Kennebec and Somerset Counties and president of the Maine Prosecutors Association, wanted to warn Mainers not to get a false sense of security if they chose to use psychedelics in Portland moving forward.”
“If someone interprets that [resolution] to mean… this criminal statute will no longer be enforced, that would be a wrong interpretation,” Maloney said, as quoted by News Center Maine.
Decriminalize Maine interim director Aaron Parker said that the resolution was a good foundation for broader reform.
“If we already have at least some element of the city government saying, ‘OK, we don’t want to waste our time and resources criminalizing people for these things,’ it makes it that much easier to, next time, be like, ‘Alright,’ and we’re gonna re-write the ordinances,” Parker told the outlet.
Decriminazlie Maine, which describes itself as a “grassroots organization that promotes the decriminalization of cultivation, possession, and adult use of plant and fungal medicines,” was one of the groups that championed the resolution.
“In our work, we recognize the importance of practices rooted in decolonization, sustainability, and intentional community building, consciousness expansion, and transformative justice. Decriminalize Maine cultivates community through educational opportunities on decriminalization and risk reduction; in this work, we enthusiastically partner with complementary organizations. Additionally, we support, encourage, and disseminate professional and academic research. Our work relies on the financial support from foundations and from the community,” the organization says on its website.
On Monday, the group celebrated the resolution’s passage on its Instagram account, but also noted that it is essentially a good starting point.
“The city council wants to treat drugs as a public health issue (good), but it’s only an opinion. Ending the war on drugs and using the savings to offer voluntary support to drug users is a policy that is supported by lots of bits of evidence and the success of national adoption in Portugal (the country),” the organization said in the Instagram post. “Hopefully this statement by the council can be used by advocates of harm reduction (or risk reduction if you prefer that term) to leverage support for such things as safe consumption sites, permanent supportive housing and maybe even a safe supply program.”
Parker said that it will ultimately be up to the Maine state legislature to decriminalize psilocybin.
“The resolution I don’t think really adequately decriminalizes anything in Portland. While we do want to protect people from potential criminal penalties, we are also looking to reduce the stigma around these substances which is an important part of harm reduction for this type of material,” he told Maine Public Radio.
According to Maine Public Radio, state lawmakers will “will debate a similar bill in January which would decriminalize psychedelic plants and fungi as well as create a regulated framework for legalization.”
A bill to decriminalize and regulate psilocybin in the state was introduced in the Maine legislature earlier this year, but was tabled.
Lawmakers there held a hearing in May, when they heard testimony in support of the legislation.
Spectrum News reported on the hearing at the time, highlighting testimony from Army veteran Nicolas Hamlin.
“I stand before you today as living proof of the healing ability psilocybin has to offer and plead for the approval of [the bill],” he told the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, as quoted by Spectrum News.
“This has helped me and many others maintain productive lifestyles,” he added. “I wish that psilocybin as a treatment option be available to those that will benefit from it.”
Spectrum had more details on Hamlin’s testimony and the proposed legislation:
“A Portland native, [Hamlin] joined the military in 2000 and completed multiple deployments to the Middle East. After his service ended, he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and ‘my own demons’…Hamlin was one of many people who testified Monday in support of the bill, which would direct the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to create regulations that would allow physicians to recommend its use at designated facilities for those who are 21 and older.”
The bill’s sponsor, Democratic state Sen. Donna Bailey, modeled the proposal “on laws in Colorado and Oregon, where the substance has been legalized,” according to Spectrum.