Seattle City Council working on steps to decriminalize psychedelics such as mushrooms

SEATTLE — Members of Seattle City Council are working on proposing new legislation that would decriminalize psychedelic drugs such as mushrooms in Seattle.

They’re also asking a new drug and recovery task force to consider recommending decriminalization on a wider scale in Washington State.

Council members are citing new research, saying the biggest reason behind their push are studies that show psychedelics can actually help treat mental health disorders like drug addiction, depression, and PTSD.

“It is the time to act on this,” said Councilmember Andrew Lewis.

A letter written by Lewis and Councilmember Lisa Herbold urges a new overdose and recovery task force to work on “recommendations to liberalize policy on entheogens at the state and local level.” Psychedelics are also known as entheogens.

Seven out of nine council members signed the letter, which was addressed to the task force, called the Overdose Emergency and Innovative Recovery (OEIR). Councilmember Alex Pedersen said he wanted to review the letter more and Councilmember Dan Strauss was not present at the meeting.

The letter essentially endorses the policy changes the group “Decrim Nature Seattle” has been fighting for, and advocates are calling it a big win.

“We’re really excited,” said Ben Sercombe, a volunteer with Decrim Nature Seattle.

Separately, council members Sawant and Lewis are also working to develop legislation to make the legal change in Seattle first.

“To decriminalize psychedelic drugs in Seattle using the same legal approach Seattle used to decriminalize cannabis,” Sawant said. She said the council could not legalize psychedelics, but could decriminalize it by making it the lowest priority for police.

Council members pointed to other ongoing research that is showing the medical power that psychedelic compounds like psilocybin, found in certain mushrooms, can have on the brain.

“This is an important and emerging area of treatment for traumatic brain injury,” Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda said.

“Research has shown they can have a powerful benefit in some circumstances to treat PTSD, depression, and addiction,” Sawant said.

Sercombe said he has personally experienced the medical benefits.

“I have been dealing with anxiety and depression my entire life. And I found that nothing was really working for me whether it be antidepressants or therapy,” Sercombe said.

He heard psychedelics could help – and gave it a shot.

“I was really able to look at my issue from an outside perspective and find a solution – not dwell on the self hate and depression that was plaguing me,” Sercombe said. “It’s drastically changed my life for the better. I’m a substantially happier person,” he said.

Now he and the group are advocating for others to have a chance – without risking arrest.

“When the war on drugs was launched in 1970, the government was trying to make this drug out to be some sort of monster that it isn’t,” Sercombe said.

“What we’re advocating for is for people who want to better themselves - their PTSD, anxiety, depression, end of life trauma - to be able to have a safe means of doing that,” he said.

Organizers of the OEIR task force said they hope to have a recommendation for lawmakers and public health by this fall.