Port Townsend Council makes entheogens low police priority

Psychedelic Society gets its wish

Erin Reading is cofounder of the Port Townsend Psychedelic Society, which seeks the decriminalization of psilocybin mushrooms and psychoactive plants. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)

Erin Reading is cofounder of the Port Townsend Psychedelic Society, which seeks the decriminalization of psilocybin mushrooms and psychoactive plants. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)

PORT TOWNSEND — After 2½ years of advocacy and a multitude of letters to local government officials, the Port Townsend Psychedelic Society was rewarded this week.

In a unanimous vote, the Port Townsend City Council adopted a resolution making the arrest of adults possessing psilocybin mushrooms, mescaline and other entheogens a low priority for the police.

Council members discussed this resolution, as first presented by the Port Townsend Psychedelic Society, many times before Monday night’s business meeting — the last one for members Ariel Speser and Pamela Adams and for Mayor Michelle Sandoval. It turned out to be the last resolution for 2021.

City Attorney Heidi Greenwood presented the document — four pages including footnotes — summarized in its first section:

“The investigation, arrest, and prosecution of adults engaging in entheogen-related activities, including but not limited to the cultivation of entheogens for use in religious, spiritual, healing, or personal growth practices, should be a City of Port Townsend low enforcement priority when done in a nonpublic place.”

Those last three words were added, Greenwood said, to align with laws regulating cannabis and alcohol, which, when used in a nonpublic place, are not cause for arrest and prosecution.

The resolution also defines the word entheogen (pronounced EN-thee-oh-gen), a term that “encompasses any living, fresh, dried, or processed plant or fungal material,” containing “psychoactive indolamines, tryptamines, or phenethylamines, including, but not limited to, psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca tea, mescaline, and iboga.”

“When reasonably possible,” the resolution states, city departments will not expend city funds or resources to assist in the enforcement of laws imposing criminal penalties on adults who cultivate, gather, transport, distribute, possess or use entheogens.

Port Townsend Police Chief Tom Olson did not return a call for comment on the adoption of the resolution; during Monday’s meeting, Greenwood told the council he was out of town.

“City Council supports the full decriminalization of these activities at the state and federal level,” the resolution continues, “and commits to add to its agenda for the 2023 state legislative session support for decriminalization of entheogens at the state level.”

During the past two years, the City Council, the Board of Jefferson County commissioners and the county Board of Health have heard from advocates of entheogen use, and Monday’s council meeting was the latest occasion for copious public comment.

Some 40 pages of email messages were included in the members’ agenda packet, all of them urging passage of the resolution. Several commenters said entheogen use helped them cope with mental health conditions.

A clause in the resolution addresses this: “Depression, severe anxiety, problematic substance use, post-traumatic stress, end-of-life anxiety, grief, intergenerational trauma, and other physical and mental conditions are plaguing many communities and have been exacerbated by the impact of COVID-19,” it notes, while “scientific and clinical studies show the benefits of entheogens in treating these conditions.”

Erin Reading, the Port Townsend Psychedelic Society advocate who has spearheaded the resolution, sent out a newsletter following the council meeting. Under the greeting “wonderful solstice news,” Reading thanked the society members and the City Council members for their support, and added that a free Zoom workshop on microdosing is set for Jan. 6.

The society also will have an outdoor celebratory potluck when weather permits, Reading added, while more information about her organization is available at porttownsendpsychedelicsociety.org.

The text of the resolution and related public comments can be found on cityofPT.us under Government, and then Agendas & Videos. Monday’s City Council agenda materials are under City Council Archives 2021.

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Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or durbanidelapaz@peninsuladailynews.com.

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