Seattle, WA — Councilmember Andrew J. Lewis (District 7 – Pioneer Square to Magnolia) expressed enthusiasm following the passage of Resolution 32021, declaring that the investigation, arrest, and prosecution of anyone engaging in entheogen-related activities should be among Seattle’s lowest law enforcement priorities.
Entheogens, commonly known psychedelics, have been shown to benefit the well-being of individuals suffering from depression, severe anxiety, problematic substance use, post-traumatic stress, end-of-life anxiety, grief, and intergenerational trauma. These and other physical and mental conditions are plaguing many communities, which have been further demonstrated to be exacerbated by the impact of COVID-19.
It is the current enforcement practice of the Seattle Police Department (SPD) neither to detain nor arrest individuals, nor to confiscate drugs from individuals, solely for suspected violations or violations of Section 69.50.4013 of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW), which is applicable to the possession of entheogens as controlled substances in the meaning of RCW 69.50.101(g). At present, SPD enforcement practice does not protect from arrest or prosecution individuals who cultivate entheogens for use in religious, spiritual, healing, or personal growth practices, either for their sole individual use or for the shared use of themselves and other practitioners, nor does it protect from arrest or prosecution individuals whose possession and/or cultivation of entheogens becomes evident to SPD officers during an encounter that was initiated other than on the basis of RCW 69.50.4013; and, current SPD practices regarding entheogens are not formally codified as departmental policy.
In his remarks, Lewis underscored his appreciation for his colleagues’ support for decriminalization. “It is a long overdue conversation to decriminalize these non-addictive natural substances. Our law enforcement officials certainly have more important things to do than arrest people for possession of entheogens, and this resolution affirms that.”
Seattle joins jurisdictions in the United States, including Oakland, California; Santa Cruz, California; Denver, Colorado; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Washington, D.C.; and the State of Oregon, which have decriminalized some or all entheogens; Portugal, Brazil, Jamaica, and the Netherlands have also decriminalized some or all entheogens.
Earlier this year, Lewis hosted a symposium featuring a number of academics, researchers, medical professionals, legal scholars and people with lived experience who are advocating for Seattle to join other states and municipalities in recognizing the effectiveness of psychedelics, when coupled with therapy, and exploring ways to reduce social inequity to access for communities and to remedy legal penalties under existing municipal code.
“A community conversation intended to reconcile government policy with emerging medical research regarding potential benefits of psychedelics is already well-underway,” Lewis said. “ In a medically-appropriate and supervised environment, people who have experienced severe trauma could benefit from these substances. We need to join the national conversation.”