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The world needs healing, psychedelic drug advocates tell Ann Arbor council – MLive.com

ANN ARBOR, MI – Derek Oldham said he’s a product of responsible psychedelic drug use and he firmly believes it has helped him become a better person.

Erik Massey said plant-based medicines have helped his mental wellbeing.

Both are advocating for decriminalization of magic mushrooms and other psychedelic drugs in Ann Arbor.

Joined by other supporters of the Decriminalize Nature Ann Arbor (DNA2) campaign, they made their case before City Council Monday night, March 2, discussing the therapeutic benefits of entheogenic plants and fungi.

That includes psilocybin mushrooms, peyote, ayahuasca, mescaline and ibogaine.

Community members deserve access to medicines that have been used for thousands of years, Massey told council, arguing people seeking help for various conditions shouldn’t fear prosecution for safe and effective treatments.

“There are studies from Johns Hopkins and NYU that show that plant-based psychedelics like psilocybin are well-tolerated and demonstrate a high safety profile, as well as remarkable results for treatment-resistant depression and addiction,” he said.

Erik Massey speaks out before the Ann Arbor City Council on March 2, 2020, advocating for decriminalization of magic mushrooms and other psychedelic drugs as part of the Decriminalize Nature Ann Arbor campaign.Ryan Stanton | The Ann Arbor News

“I myself have gone through a process of healing from depression, from anxiety, and am still working through my own past traumas,” he said. “And my ability to be an engaged member of the community, a present and loving father for my son, and my own best version of myself, has been significantly enabled by healing through plant medicines.”

Like the DNA2 campaign in Ann Arbor, there are over 100 decriminalization campaigns in communities across the country, psychedelic advocates told council.

The movement is gaining momentum now that marijuana is legalized in Michigan and other places.

Denver became the first U.S. city to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms last year, followed by Oakland and Santa Cruz in California, which decriminalized all entheogenic plants.

Advocates say non-addictive psychedelics can, for example, provide a pathway out of opioid addiction.

“The world is in dire need of healing, and currently the medical model that’s available has failed so many people,” Massey said. “There are rampant epidemics of addiction, and the problems that we face as a society are ubiquitous — they’re prevalent, they’re everywhere — and we need help.”

Massey encouraged council members to look into the issue and read people’s testimonies.

“There are countries like Peru where ayahuasca is considered a national heritage,” he said. “And we have Americans traveling, veterans seeking help from PTSD.”

Some council members haven’t been eager to take up the DNA2 group’s proposed decriminalization resolution, but Council Member Jeff Hayner, D-1st Ward, suggested Monday night he’s open to bringing forward a proposal.

“You know, it’s plant medicine, it’s ancient medicine, it’s part of the planet, and it’s part of the biosphere that we exist in,” he said. “And I think it’s an important thing, and I like what they’re doing with it and I’m happy to bring something forward.”

Hayner told members of the group he looked forward to working with them, drawing applause.

From left, Council Members Anne Bannister and Jeff Hayner, both 1st Ward Democrats, at the Ann Arbor City Council meeting on March 2, 2020.Ryan Stanton | The Ann Arbor News

DNA2’s proposed resolution would make arresting people for entheogenic plants the city’s lowest law enforcement priority.

“And we’re not talking about legalizing plants,” Hayner said. “We’re talking about basically maintaining the status quo, where the police department has so many other concerns, so many things to look out for — the opioid crisis, heroin … all kinds of things — it’s not on their radar.”

Council Member Anne Bannister, D-1st Ward, said she’s interested in learning more and discussing it with all parties, including city residents and police.

She said she also wants to learn more from University of Michigan researchers working on the issue.

Oldham talked about the prevalence of mass shootings and gun violence in the U.S., saying there’s a lot of bad news and sometimes it feels like there’s no hope for so many.

“But there are a number of scientists, therapists, doctors, farmers and activists in Ann Arbor working together to find a solution,” he said, adding psychedelics are part of it.

“At first, it seems like an extreme jump, but the war on drugs is a failed effort. Modern pharmaceuticals are not helping the rapid growth of mental illness sweeping our nation,” he said.

He referenced the fact that a group of private donors gave $17 million last year to start the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

“You have big names like Johns Hopkins opening up psychedelic research centers and having astounding success with test subjects for treatment-resistant depression and end-of-life anxiety,” he said.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia found psychedelic drug use is associated with reduced partner violence in men, Oldham noted, and University of Alabama researchers found people who’ve used psychedelics are less likely to commit assault or steal.

“Our very own University of Michigan hosted a psychedelic symposium last year,” Oldham said. “The decriminalize movement is gaining momentum at an exponential rate.”

A large crowd of residents, including several Ann Arbor firefighters, packed into the council chambers for the Ann Arbor City Council meeting March 2, 2020.Ryan Stanton | The Ann Arbor News

Oldham told council members this is their chance to “claim a podium spot on the national charge to decriminalize a safe and effective solution to so many of our nation’s problems.”

“If we wait, more people will die. If we act, we can save lives, put Ann Arbor on the map, allow more research, more information and more solutions,” he said.

He told council members if they Google “mushroom cartel,” they’ll find a story about a Spanish company price-fixing canned mushrooms.

“That’s it,” he said. “The people standing before you tonight are not a cartel, but most of us are criminal because of our relationship with these plants and fungi.”

If council acts, he said, “You will be celebrated and remembered for the heroic decision to decriminalize the opportunity for all of us to become better people.”

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