Advocates Seek to Make Fungi and Plant Medicines the Lowest Law Enforcement Priority in Portland, Oregon

I recently blogged about how Ann Arbor, Michigan, was leading the way on the decriminalization of entheogenic plants and fungi, such as ayahuasca, ibogaine, mescaline, peyote, and psilocybin mushrooms after demonstrating similar leadership decriminalizing cannabis back in the 1970s. Fellow cannabis law reform activists and I in Columbia, Missouri, in the early 2000s were inspired by Ann Arbor and now, advocates in my current hometown of Portland, Oregon, are following a similar path on natural psychedelics medicines by seeking to make fungi and plant medicines the lowest law enforcement priority in the progressive city. Marijuana Moment reported:

“Portland, Oregon activists are mounting a push to have local lawmakers pass a resolution decriminalizing the cultivation, gifting and ceremonial use of a wide range of psychedelics. It’s a move that they say would fill the gap between historic statewide drug policy reform initiatives approved by voters in November.

“While those successful ballot measures legalized psilocybin therapy and decriminalized possession of all currently illicit drugs, the Plant Medicine Healing Alliance (PMHA) says the policies leave some important activity at risk of criminalization. The new local resolution they are asking the the City Commission to pass would make it so that activities such as gifting and community-based ceremonies involving entheogenic substances like ayahuasca and ibogaine would be made among Portland’s lowest law enforcement priorities.

“PMHA has emphasized the importance of working with indigenous groups to craft the proposal. And that outreach led them to exclude peyote and DMT derived from toads from the measure, as there are sustainability concerns.”

While some may understandably characterize PMHA’s proposal as a “decriminalization” measure, I personally believe that “lowest law enforcement priority” more accurately describes the policy initiative because Portland doesn’t have a city court to actually enforce a change in the criminal punishment. Because people could still be charged in Multnomah County Court by law enforcement, I’m afraid that people could still be sentenced under state law even if this change to city code gets enacted.

However, if Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt, who endorsed the Measure 110 decriminalization law (implementing it early) and has called for reforming the failed Drug War, instituted a decriminalization procedure within his office, then there would be a type of de facto decriminalization policy in effect. If the City of Roses had its own city court like Ann Arbor and Columbia do, then a Portland ordinance could definitely order local law enforcement to follow city code and there would be a court to enforce those provisions. It should be noted that while I have experience drafting laws and once worked as a criminal defense attorney, I no longer practice law, so my opinion certainly isn’t the end-all-be-all of the matter. But keeping nonviolent people out of prison when they aren’t harming anyone else has always been at the forefront of my drug policy activism, so I err on the side of folks being cautious when their freedom is on the line.

While it is a little complicated how a city’s lowest law enforcement priority measure interplays within the judicial system when there isn’t a city court to carry out the policy and cases get sent to county count instead, I believe that the work of the Plant Medicine Healing Alliance has an opportunity to move the drug policy debate forward in a positive manner. The more that the public, elected officials, and policymakers learn about the benefits of plant and fungi medicines and the ills of the War on Drugs, the better. The PMHA has a prestigious group of folks that I respect working on this effort, including, but certainly not limited to: Dr. Rachel Knox, chair of the Association for Cannabis Health Equity and Medicine (among other titles), East Fork Cultivars co-founder Nathan Howard, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps CEO David Bronner, and Chad Luske, a retired Navy SEAL who was so instrumental in helping pass the Oregon Measure 109 therapeutic psilocybin law.

You can read the full policy here and I encourage everyone to support efforts like this across the country. Decades of propaganda and the money and influence of the prison-industrial complex make ending the Drug War a monumentally difficult task that will take a village and then some. Local efforts like this one and others is one way that activists can make a big difference in our fight for freedom.

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