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New Washington Ballot Measure Would Legalize Psychedelic Plants And Fungi

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Organizers in Washington State are working to put a measure on the state’s ballot that would legalize a number of plant- and fungi-based psychedelics for personal use, including psilocybin mushrooms, mescaline and DMT.

While the proposal wouldn’t allow commercial sales of the substances, it would permit paid “supportive services” under which people could receive compensation for facilitating psychedelic experiences, somewhat like services already legal in Oregon and Colorado. Individual adults could also freely grow psychedelic plants and fungi and share them with other adults without remuneration.

The initiative campaign, the Responsible Entheogen Access and Community Healing Coalition (REACH WA), submitted the measure to the secretary of state about a month ago, and the office granted it a formal ballot title and summary on June 27.

With the latest step, organizers can now begin gathering signatures for the would-be proposition, dubbed Initiative Measure No. 2076. It’s not likely to make the ballot this year, however, given that the July 5 deadline to submit signatures for a vote this November has now passed.

The campaign didn’t immediately answer questions sent in an email from Marijuana Moment, though it said Monday that it’s working on a response.

If Initiative 2076 were to appear on the ballot and be passed by voters in its current form, it would legalize the “noncommercial cultivation and transfer of natural psychedelics and the provision of supportive services for adults aged 21 and older,” according to the submitted measure.

Among its stated goals are to “create a legal, equitable, responsible, and cost-effective pathway to accessing the potential benefits of naturally occurring psychedelics for adults 21 years of age and older” as well as to reduce harm by promoting responsible use, reduce negative bias and stigma, use law enforcement resources “in more effective and rational ways,” prevent distribution to minors and “encourage the development of a mission-driven, community-based psychedelic ecosystem in which the service providers who work with natural psychedelics are not motivated primarily by monetary interests.”

REACH WA said on social media last week that the 26-page proposal “is not the final draft” of the initiative.

“We are committed to refining and improving the language of our initiative,” organizers said, “whether it’s for the next ballot or in hopes of finding a legislative sponsor.”

In its current form, the initiative would apply to the substances psilocybin, psilocin, DMT, 5-MeO-DMT and mescaline, provided they’re derived from a plant or fungal source. Commercial sales of those substances would generally be a misdemeanor, although they could be provided as part of “bona fide supportive services…provided that the transfer includes no more natural psychedelics than are actually consumed by the participant or participants receiving supportive services during that session.”

Consumption and transfer of psychedelics could not be done within view of the public, and the administration of supportive services could not be done at a public place. Nor could legal psilocybin activity be done in a way that creates a public or private nuisance.

Supportive services would also need to be provided at a location where reasonable steps have been taken to prevent people under 21 from being permitted entry. Negligently allowing in minors would be a class 1 civil infraction, with a fine up to $7,500, while willfully allowing in minors would be a gross misdemeanor.

The proposal would not create any defense to driving-related laws, and operating a vehicle under the influence of psychedelics would remain a crime.

The measure also lays out some requirements for those providing supportive services, establishing a duty to use a reasonable standard of care and transfer only psychedelics “that are void of any adulterant or contaminant” that pose health risks. It would also bar any romantic or sexual relationships between a provider and a client regardless of whether consent is given by a participant for a period of one year.

In general, informed consent would need to be granted before providing services, and in cases where “supportive touch” is offered, “consent to the scope of permissible touch must be established” before consumption of psychedelics, “and the participant has the right to revoke such consent at any time.

Providers could also not describe services as “therapy” unless provided as part of a licensed therapeutic practice, in which case the governing body of that practice would have to be in accordance with the rules and standards of that profession. Nor could providers make claims about curative or therapeutic effects of psychedelics unless there’s broad scientific agreement backing those claims.

Services could also not make use the likeness of any Indigenous tribe, person, culture or religion “that would otherwise lead a reasonable person to believe that the supportive services provider is part of or connected with” if they’re in fact not.

An advisory council would be established under the measure to draft nonbinding guidance, create evidence-based harm reduction and educational materials and, optionally, establish an investigatory process to look into complaints. The body would consist of members representing government health departments, law enforcement, veterans, the law, harm reduction, Indigenous groups, the recovery community, people with lived experience using psychedelics and more. It would receive $800,000 in annual funding.

Advertising would also be limited to prevent images of minors, cartoons, toys and other content “associated with minors or marketed to minors.” Further, services could be advertised “only to participants or prospective participants who have requested or consented to receive direct advertising communications…such as registering to be on an email list or subscribing to receive social media updates.”

Companies providing services would also need to be organized as nonprofits in Washington or another state, unless they’re sole proprietorships that are single-member LLCs.

Local governments could impose reasonable regulations on service providers, but they couldn’t prevent lawful psychedelics activity completely. Nor could they forbid harm reduction services or impose any tax or fee on psychedelics activity outside of typical “sales taxes, business licensing fees, and similar charges” assessed on all businesses.

Here’s the Secretary of State’s ballot title for Initiative 2076:

Initiative Measure No. 2076 concerns the regulation of hallucinogenic substances.

This measure would authorize individuals over 21 to possess, use, cultivate, or transfer certain hallucinogenic substances under state law, subject to restrictions; regulate the provision of related services; and set penalties for violations.

Should this measure be enacted into law? Yes [ ] No [ ]

And here’s the ballot measure summary:

This measure would define certain hallucinogenic substances as “natural psychedelics” and authorize individuals over 21 to possess, use, cultivate, or transfer such substances under state law, subject to restrictions. It would authorize, define, and regulate “supportive services”; impose duties and restrictions on providers; create a cause of action for noncompliance; and create an advisory council requiring legislative appropriation. It would set penalties for violations and state an intent to supersede inconsistent state and local laws.

Forward progress on REACH WA’s proposal comes as Washington’s capital city of Olympia considers its own psychedelics reform measure. Specifically, a resolution currently being considered by the City Council would direct law enforcement to make the prohibition of psilocybin and other psychedelic substances a low enforcement priority. A public hearing is expected in coming weeks.

That resolution, brought before the council last month, further states that “no city funds or resources should be for investigation, prosecution, and arrest of individuals solely for entheogenic plants and fungi.” And it expresses the city’s “support for the full decriminalization of these activities at the state and federal level.”

Olympia is one of at least six municipalities across the state where activists set out late last year to pass psychedelics reform at the local level. Organizers told Marijuana Moment at the time that the grassroots strategy was inspired in part by municipal psychedelics reform in cities across Massachusetts—a movement that now aims to put a statewide psychedelics legalization initiative on the 2024 ballot in that state.

In Washington, Seattle, Port Townsend and Jefferson County have also decriminalized psilocybin through local policies.

The proposal comes as more governmental and public health organizations acknowledge the negative impacts of the drug war and encourage an approach based more on harm reduction.

For example, the American Medical Association (AMA) has now formally endorsed drug decriminalization, adopting the policy position last month at its annual meeting. The body is calling for the “elimination of criminal penalties for drug possession for personal use as part of a larger set of related public health and legal reforms designed to improve carefully selected outcomes.”

AMA also recommended adopting a policy supporting “federal and state efforts to expunge, at no cost to the individual, criminal records for drug possession for personal use upon completion of a sentence or penalty.”

Dozens of United Nations (UN) human rights experts have also called for a less-punitive approach to global drug policies, urging member nations last month to focus less on punishment and criminalization and more on harm reduction and public health while specifically calling for “decriminalisation of drug use and related activities, and the responsible regulation of all drugs to eliminate profits from illegal trafficking, criminality and violence.”

And a recent report from the RAND Corporation urged that “now is the time” for federal policymakers to decide how to regulate psilocybin and other substances.

Both the RAND report and a separate study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), meanwhile, also indicate growing interest in microdosing psychedelics.

While researchers in the JAMA study noted that federal prohibition means unsanctioned use of the psychedelic could pose risks to consumers, another federal agency recently acknowledged the potential benefits the substance might provide—including for treatment of alcohol use disorder, anxiety and depression. It also noted psilocybin research being funded by the federal government into the drug’s effects on pain, migraines, psychiatric disorders and various other conditions.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/Mädi.



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