Seattle council approves resolution recommending decriminalization of psychedelics

Oct 5, 2021, 8:44 AM | Updated: Jan 3, 2024, 10:02 am

Decriminalization, psychedelics...

(Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

(Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

Seattle City Council approved a resolution Monday, expressing its support for decriminalizing the possession of naturally-occurring psychedelic substances like mushrooms, ayahuasca, and other psychedelic substances.

City council working on steps to decriminalize psychedelics

The resolution is nonbinding, acting only as a recommendation to the Seattle Police Department, stating that arresting and prosecuting people who possess or use personal quantities of psychedelic substances should be “among Seattle’s lowest law enforcement priorities.”

City councilmembers held a symposium in early September to gather feedback from experts on the potential benefits of decriminalization policies for psychedelics. Many spoke to the benefits of allowing their use in controlled psychotherapy settings, which several studies say can help those dealing with alcoholism and other substance use disorders.

The resolution’s sponsor, councilmember Andrew Lewis, also spoke Monday to how decriminalization could help free up police resources.

“It is a long overdue conversation to decriminalize these non-addictive natural substances,” he said in a news release. “Our law enforcement officials certainly have more important things to do than arrest people for possession of entheogens, and this resolution affirms that.”

While Monday’s resolution was lauded by many on the dais as a necessary step in the right direction, Councilmember Kshama Sawant questioned why councilmembers were stopping short of passing a binding ordinance to fully decriminalize psychedelics that she said was drafted three months ago.

“I am a little confused by this resolution,” she said. “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.”

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“I fail to see what the plausible reasons are for councilmembers who claim to support this issue to let an ordinance which takes concrete action sit in the city’s computers unintroduced, and instead push a resolution which only has the power to make requests,” she added.

Councilmember Lisa Herbold — who chairs the council’s public safety committee — pointed to how “we agreed as a council that we were going to hold on taking any action until we received recommendations” from a city task force created to explore decriminalization policies.

Herbold also cited how state lawmakers will likely be taking part in a “robust discussion about enforcement around possession of drugs” during the next legislative session.

“I think we’re trying to be really sensitive to those discussions about to occur on a statewide level,” she clarified, further pointing out that the Seattle Police Department already ceased enforcement for simple possession following a late-February state Supreme Court decision that had effectively nullified the state’s existing drug possession law.

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Seattle council approves resolution recommending decriminalization of psychedelics