Chicago, Illinois is following in the steps that Denver, Colorado and Oakland, California took earlier this year. Chicago is on its way to becoming the third major city in the United States to pass a resolution that decriminalizes the adult possession and use of entheogenic plants. Entheogenic is a term that refers to a class of psychoactive substances that have historically been used in cultural or spiritual practices and rituals. The term denotes that the ingestion of these substances often produces a spiritual experience and that these plants are sacred to many peoples and cultures across the planet. Entheogenic plants can and will also be referred to as psychoactive or psychedelic.
Indeed many religions and spiritual practices can be tied to specific psychoactive plants from their respective regions of origin. Native Americans incorporated peyote into their spiritual practices and there is evidence of the use of the deliriant Datura in Dharmic rituals associated with many tantras. Cannabis is used religiously by Rastafarians and many Hindus as well. The hallucinogenic drug iboga is sometimes used in Bwiti spiritual ceremonies by the Babongo people of Gabon on the west coast of Africa.
Psilocybin, the psychedelic drug found in “magic mushrooms,” is used by some indigenous cultures throughout Mexico and Central America, including the Mazatec Indians of Mexico, as a part of religious ceremonies. Shamans of the Amazon Basin create ayahuasca, a psychedelic brew that consists of two distinct species of plants found in the Amazon, in order to conduct their spiritual rites.
A resolution to decriminalize psychedelic plants was introduced to the Chicago City Council last week. The council adopted the resolution in a unanimous 50-0 vote. However, that is only the first step in the process, the resolution has now been referred to the Committee on Health and Human Relations. This committee will call for hearing(s) to discuss findings from the Department of Public Health on the feasibility of the use of entheogenic plants and their compounds as alternative treatment options. During the hearing(s) the committee will also hear testimonials from the public regarding their experiences with the use of these psychedelic plants in order to treat a wide variety of ailments.
Prioritizing the use of law enforcement funds entirely away from adult possession and use of psychedelic plants will likely help with Chicago’s recidivism. Furthermore, this resolution would allow veterans and others who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) to use these substances as alternative treatment options. This would also once again open up the doors to in-depth scientific research on these psychoactive plants.
Although the adult possession and use of psychedelic plants would remain illegal under state and federal law, the resolution would ultimately not utilize any resources to pursue adults for possession or use of psychedelic plants.
Slowly but surely, city after city is recognizing that in the face of an opiate crisis across the nation, disparities in policing related to drug-related crimes, and the innocuous nature of these substances, persecution of adult possession and use of psychedelic plants should not be on the priority list for law enforcement officials. Denver, Oakland, and hopefully Chicago are leading the way towards truly dismantling the War on Drugs in the United States. Hopefully, more U.S. cities will follow in their footsteps and actively work to decriminalize nature.