Group pushes to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms in Michigan

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Petition language submitted to the state Tuesday would decriminalize the production of psychedelic mushrooms and other plants in Michigan for people over the age of 18. 

The petition also would allow hospital-designated entities and religious groups to cultivate, grow and sell mushrooms; reduce criminal penalties across the board for unauthorized possession of Schedule 1 or 2 controlled substances; and remove testing equipment from the legal definition of drug paraphernalia. 

Under the Michigan Initiative for Community Healing petition, "natural plants and mushrooms" would include psilocybin, psilocyn, mescaline, ibogaine, peyote or dimethyltryptamine.

"It’s a true decriminalization," said Myc Williams, co-director of Decriminalize Nature Michigan. "Everyone over the age of 18 would be allowed to grow, possess, use cultivate, share, etc."

Jason Clark shows off psilocybin cubensis, a strain of psilocybe cubensis which is a species of psychedelic mushroom commonly called shrooms or magic mushrooms at Palmer Park in Detroit on Friday, November 12, 2021.

The Michigan group is partnering with Decriminalize Nature National, Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the team that led Detroit's decriminalization effort in November. 

The proposal comes nearly four years after the state of Michigan in 2018 voted 56% to 44% to legalize recreational marijuana. The state has since set up an agency to regulate the growth, testing, sale and taxation of medical and recreational marijuana. 

In November, 61% of Detroit voters backed a ballot proposal decriminalizing entheogenic plants, including psychedelic mushroom. 

To qualify for the ballot, organizers must first gain technical approvals for their initiative from the Board of State Canvassers and then gather a total of 340,047 signatures. 

About 15 cities in Michigan have either decriminalized psychedelics or are in the process of doing so, with the most recent and notable passage occurring in Detroit, said Williams. A Senate bill introduced by Sens. Jeff Irwin of Ann Arbor and Adam Hollier of Detroit seeks similar decriminalization measures. 

Williams, a former addict, said the "spiritual experience" he had with mushroom was what helped him recover. He said others use it to treat trauma, depression or anxiety. 

While the regulation of the drugs are not mentioned in the petition, Williams said he expect that's "probably around the corner." But he stressed the petition initiative is not meant to create an industry around the drug. 

The petition language would also lower the penalty for possession of any unauthorized controlled substance, including possession of 1,000 grams or more, which would be reduced from a felony with a max of life in prison to a misdemeanor, punishable by no more than a year or a fine of $1,000. The penalties get progressively smaller as the amount possessed decreases.

The language is an acknowledgement of the failed and detrimental "war on drugs," Williams said. 

By removing testing equipment from the definition of "drug paraphernalia," the group hopes to limit the charges available to be used against offenders as well as protect users against harmful additives such as fentanyl. 

"People who chose to use drugs can be charged with another crime to test their substance … to know in fact what they are ingesting," Williams said. 

Eleven other petition initiatives are seeking technical approvals or already collecting signatures, moving the state toward what could be a crowded ballot in November 2022.