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Legal Psychedelics: The U.S. Cities Where Psilocybin, LSD And Others Are Decriminalized

Legal Psychedelics: The U.S. Cities Where Psilocybin, LSD And Others Are Decriminalized

Since the start of the psychedelics boom, several U.S. cities have passed various legislation to decriminalize psychedelic drugs. However, don’t confuse this with meaning that these are now technically legal psychedelics.

These measures do not allow for the legal and indiscriminate use of psychedelics. Rather, they offer protection to individuals engaging in practices with psychedelics at home, or for spiritual or therapeutic purposes without commercial intent.

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The Difference Between Legalization And Decriminalization

Most psychedelics continue to be Schedule 1 substances under U.S. federal law. This means the term “legal psychedelics” in the U.S. is a bit confusing.

With the exception of ketamine, a controlled substance, most psychedelic drugs continue to be illegal in the United States.

These include the following substances.

The federal government makes it illegal to produce, buy, possess, or distribute these substances.

However, the U.S. system also allows for certain “sanctuary cities,” to exist. In other words, this is the removal of criminal penalties for the use of psychedelics. It effectively allows for personal use and possession of small amounts of “entheogens” These are plants and fungi that naturally produce psychedelic substances — so, sure, can be referred to as “legal psychedelics.”

In general, these resolutions don’t allow for the development of a large-scale market around the use of psychedelic substances. Use and possession still need to occur in non-commercial contexts to enjoy decriminalization privileges. These often come with at-home use or within small private groups.

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Oregon

For the time being, Oregon is the only jurisdiction where psychedelics enjoy decriminalization at the state level. This does not mean these drugs are all legal psychedelics. The use of psychedelics in the state fall under two categories, depending on the substance. Psilocybin is the only one falling into a special category.

In November of 2020, Oregon voters approved Measure 110, also known as the Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act. This removed criminal penalties on the use and possession of all drugs, including psychedelics. The measure made the personal possession of small amounts of drugs a civil violation with a $100 fine. The fine may drop if a person enlists in one of the state’s Addiction and Recovery Centers.

The adoption of Measure 100 is to reduce the use of hard drugs like heroin and cocaine. However, its language also removes tough penalties on the personal use of psychedelic substances.

On the same November ballot, Oregonians approved Measure 109. This establishes a state-licensed psilocybin-assisted therapy system: the first in the country. The ballot set up a two-year development period — currently ongoing — directing the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to license and regulate the manufacturing, transportation, delivery, sale and purchase of psilocybin products. Likewise, OHA is responsible for supervising the creation of licensed facilities for the delivery of psilocybin treatment.

The development period will end on December 31, 2022, so for now, access to medical treatment psilocybin in Oregon continues to exist informally, falling under the umbrella of Measure 110.

In California, two cities have passed local reform decriminalizing the personal use of naturally-produced psychedelics.

The Oakland City Council now says that no city funds or resources are available to impose criminal penalties on the use and possession of entheogenic plants by adults. These include psilocybin mushrooms, the peyote cacti, the iboga shrub and the concoction known as ayahuasca.

The resolution declared the planting, cultivating, purchasing, transporting, distributing, using and possessing entheogenic plants or plant compounds among the lowest law enforcement priority and directed the District Attorney to cease prosecution of persons involved in the use of entheogenic plants.

In 2020, Santa Cruz followed suit, passing a similar resolution resolving that the city cannot use resources in the investigation and arrest of persons 21 and older for the personal use, possession, or cultivation of entheogenic plants and fungi.

Washington State enjoys reduced penalties on the possession of all drugs, with special decriminalization measures happening in Seattle for psychedelics.

Since July 2021, a senate bill approved in Washington reduces penalties for the possession of any drug from a felony to a misdemeanor. The law will be active for a period of two years, and it encourages law enforcement officers and prosecutors to derive first and second-time offenders charged with possession of drugs to drug treatment rather than arrest.

In October 2021, Seattle became the largest city in the country to decriminalize natural psychedelics. It makes the investigation, arrest, and prosecution of entheogen-related activities among the city’s lowest enforcement priorities.

Approval from the city of Port Townsend, a small jurisdiction across the lake from Seattle, completed a similar resolution in December 2021.

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In May 2019, Denver became the first city in the country to impose decriminalization measures on any psychedelic compound. In Denver, personal possession of psilocybin-producing mushrooms is now the “lowest law enforcement priority.”

This prevents the use of any funds for law enforcement on the personal use and possession of psilocybin mushrooms by adults.

Michigan houses three jurisdictions where the decriminalization of psychedelic substances exists.

In 2020, the City Council of Ann Arbor resolved that planting, cultivating, purchasing, transporting, distributing, engaging in practices with, or possessing entheogenic plants or their derived schedule 1 compounds are the lowest law enforcement priority within the city.

According to the resolution:

  • No use of city funds or resources for any investigation, detention, arrest, or prosecution of people who use entheogenic plants.
  • It also mandates the District Attorney to “cease prosecution of persons involved in the use of Entheogenic Plants or plant-based compounds.”

In January of 2021, Washtenaw County — where Ann Arbor is — extended a similar policy to the entire county. However, driving under the influence of psychedelic compounds continues to be a crime liable to prosecution.

Later that same year, Detroit became the second largest U.S. city — after Seattle — to decriminalize psychedelics. Detroit voters approved a ballot decriminalizing the personal possession and therapeutic use of entheogenic plants by adults. It now means doing so is the city’s lowest law-enforcement priority.

Sale and distribution of psychedelics continues to be criminalized. Still, the Detroit Police Department (DPD) must cease using resources to investigate and prosecute Detroit residents for personal possession. Likewise, the DPD must do so for therapeutic use of these substances as well.

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Washington DC

The nation’s capital is one of a few U.S. cities where decriminalization of the non-commercial use of psychedelics exists.

In November 2020, residents in Washington DC approved an initiative making the investigation and arrest of persons 18 years of age or older among the Metropolitan Police Department’s “lowest enforcement priorities.”

This is true for the following when discussing entheogenic plants and fungi.

  • Non-commercial planting
  • Cultivating
  • Purchasing
  • Transporting
  • Distributing
  • Engaging in practices with or possessing

Massachusetts: Boston Suburbs

Psychedelic substances continue to be criminalized in the city of Boston — again, this doesn’t make them legal psychedelics. However, residents of the city are within walking distance from two jurisdictions where the non-commercial use of psychedelics is decriminalized.

The City Councils of Somerville and Cambridge are both part of the Boston Metro Area. These cities decriminalized entheogenic plants and fungi in early 2021. However, the agreement states no use of city funds or resources in the enforcement of criminal penalties . This includes the use and possession of entheogenic plants by adults.

The investigation and arrest of adults for planting, cultivating, purchasing, transporting, distributing, engaging in practices with, or possessing entheogenic plants is amongst the lowest law enforcement priority. The District Attorney must cease prosecution of persons involved in the use, possession, or distribution of these substances.

Also in 2021, Northampton and Easthampton, both located about 100 miles west from Boston, took on similar resolutions. Each effectively now allow the personal use and possession of natural psychedelic substances.

Natan Ponieman

View all posts by Natan Ponieman

Natan Ponieman is a writer, journalist and filmmaker covering psychedelics as they intersect with finance, culture, science, politics and spirituality. He's a Forbes Contributor and serves as Head of Psychedelics Content at Benzinga. His work has been featured in Entrepreneur Magazine, Yahoo Finance, Benzinga, MSN Money, Leafly News, High Times and many others.

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Comments (2)

  • Beverly Sue Mileto
    March 26, 2022 at 4:39 pm Reply

    I have PTSD. I’m looking to research what’s available to help. I live in Phoenix Arizona and not sure where to start.
    Thank you

  • Sandi
    April 13, 2022 at 1:42 am Reply

    From Ohio and looking for ways to psilocybin. My anxiety is off the charts

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